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Ohio official seeks tort referendum ruling


COLUMBUS, Ohio--Ohio's secretary of state has asked the state supreme court whether foes of a state tort reform law still have time to try to void the law through a special referendum.

Earlier this month, the state high court overturned Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland's January veto of a product liability law approved by Ohio legislators in December. By a 5-to-2 margin, the justices said the newly elected governor had not vetoed the bill within the time allowed by the state constitution. The court, which did not consider the merits of the law, ordered the law put on the books.

Among other things, the law caps noneconomic damage awards in cases brought under the state's Consumer Sales Practices Act at $5,000.

On Monday, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner asked the court to clarify whether "Ohio citizens still have the right of referendum regarding" the law, or whether the time had expired as the question of the veto was being litigated.

"The court's decision does not conclusively answer whether referendum is available, as different parts of the opinion seem to suggest different answers," said the secretary of state's filing.