On September 21, 2011, the Oregon Court of Appeals issued a significant decision answering what had been an open question under Oregon law: are non-economic damages statutorily capped at $500,000 in birth injury cases?
The medical negligence case concerned a complication that arose during the birth of a child and the injuries that the child sustained as a result of that complication. At trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the mother and child, awarding over $500,000 in economic damages and $1.375 million in non-economic damages. The trial court denied Oregon Medical Group’s post-trial motion to reduce the non-economic damages award to $500,000 in accordance with Oregon’s statutory non-economic damages cap which applies to certain claims arising out of bodily injury, and Oregon Medical Group appealed.
The Oregon Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in not reducing the non-economic damages award to $500,000. The court rejected the mother’s argument that the statutory cap is unconstitutional under the remedies and jury trial clauses of the Oregon Constitution, a challenge which previously invalidated the statute as applied to personal injury claims, but not wrongful death claims. The court held that the Oregon Constitution does not prohibit application of the non-economic damages cap to claims for prenatal injury because no such claim existed when the Oregon Constitution was adopted in 1857.
As the law in Oregon stands now, non-economic damages are capped at $500,000 in wrongful death cases and claims for prenatal injury, including injury that occurs during birth. The reasoning in this decision opens the door for arguments to expand the application of the cap in other types of personal injury cases© 2002-2013 by Williams Kastner ALL RIGHTS RESERVED