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Firms merge amid growing battles against insurance companies



Published: Mon, June 27, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The attorneys will provide legal work in Mahoning, Columbiana and Trumbull counties.

By DENISE DICK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

CANFIELD -- Two area law firms are joining forces in response in part to Ohio's caps on jury awards.

Betras, Maruca & amp; Kopp and Harshman & amp; Bernard will merge, effective July 1. Both firms will move into the Seville Drive location that houses Betras, Maruca and Kopp. The downtown Youngstown office occupied by Harshman and Bernard will close although the attorneys will continue to provide civil, criminal and divorce work throughout the three-county region.

By joining, the attorneys will better be able to match forces with the legal teams from major cities assembled by insurance companies and other businesses against whom their clients file suit, they say.

"The reality of the marketplace has forced us to join forces to maximize our resources," Atty. David Betras said.

Settlement cap

The tort reform law, which took effect in April, limits to $350,000 the amount juries may award in personal injury, medical malpractice or other similar cases. The award stands regardless of the injury involved.

It's effectively taken away a jury's ability to award a defendant as if sees fit, Atty. Susan Maruca said.

Last year, billboards and television advertisements touted a need for change in the law, saying doctors were leaving Ohio for states where medical malpractice insurance isn't as steep.

Atty. Michael Harshman argued that the insurance companies are responsible for doctors' increased premiums, not lawsuits.




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