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A Global Damage Calculation Approach May Apply to Abuse Cases

In the case of McCombs v. Ohio Dept. of Dev. Disabilities, 2022-Ohio-4834, the Court of Claims of Ohio held that the proper process for determining damages arising from the abuse of disabled individuals is to look at the global circumstances including, but not limited to, the individual abuses and the cumulative effect of such abuses — rather than a traditional calculation approach.

In this case, a disabled individual argued that a traditional calculation of damages was not appropriate given the level of the underlying abuse and, as a result, a broader view must be taken for determining damages. In response, the agency argued against anything other than a traditional calculation of damages as speculative. The court agreed with the disabled individual.

In support of its decision, the court explained that damages in abuse cases are always speculative to some extent. Nonetheless, in applying a global approach to calculating damages, the court explained that:

[T]his Court declines to place a monetary value on each incident, although of course some incidents were more physical than others, as in the knee to the groin and the incidents involving choking clearly indicate. Those incidents, being more abusive, certainly merit considerably greater damage amounts than incidents that are less physical, but those lesser assaults carry their own amount of degradation and humiliation, and *** are completely contrary to the manner in which [the disabled individual] was to be treated by staff. Each instance of abuse imparted a lesson—the wrong lesson—to [the disabled individual], and repeated lessons not only are humiliating, but take more time to be unlearned, or undone. The Court, instead, looks at the overall picture, which includes the individual abuses AND the cumulative effect of the abuses, and does so because each degradation, each humiliation, each act of abuse, adds to the anguish, embarrassment, humiliation and degradation inflicted upon [the disabled individual]. Parsing each incident out and saying it contributes this much, or that much, is clearly an incomplete analysis, as it neglects to look at the overall situation in which [the disabled individual] found himself. Just as the poet wrote that “No Man is an Island”, when there is a repetition of abusive incidents, no one incidence of abuse is, either.

2022-Ohio-4834 at ¶ 17.

To read this case, click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always-changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.


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