A recent article in The Canton Repository about a local man who recently won a $1.4 million in a public records lawsuit shows how out of whack our legislative priorities are in Ohio.
Apparently the city of Bucyrus destroyed thousands of pages of public records requested by an attorney. The purpose of his request appeared to be laudable and legitimate. It also appears that the city violated the law, at least according to a local judge who heard the case. Ohio law provides for civil damages of $1,000 for every public record destroyed, presuambly as a strong deterrant against destroying records for public consumption.
But here's where things are way out of proportion and out of whack. Let's compare this law to laws The Ohio Legislature has passed that LIMIT a person's damages. If a hospital leaves a large foreign object inside you, their liability is limited to a sliding scale of $250,000-350,000 for any damage caused, even if it is permanent. If a drunk driver smashes into you and breaks your legs and your hips, you are limited to the same amount for your pain and disability. Welcome to "tort reform," a governmental intervention in your injury claim and a declaration that a one size fits all "cap" will apply on your claim.
So what's the message here: that preserving "public records" is more important than the human misery and trail of injuries caused by drunk drivers, medical errors, defective Chinese products, tainted foods, and other wrongdoers?
Liability for public records violations should not be endless when, at the same time, human suffering is cheapened and wrongdoers and their insurance companies are given "discounts." This recent verdict highlights the incongruity of our laws and a legislative lack of seeing a bigger picture of justice. And it also fuels the fire of "frivolous lawsuits" that will only make it harder for those with legitimate claims to obtain a fair recovery for their harms and losses.