Oregon High Court Upholds Noneconomic Malpractice Award

October 1, 2013

The family of a baby who sustained nerve injuries as a result of negligence by a Lane County medical practice should be able to collect the full $1.375 million in noneconomic damages awarded by a jury in 2008, the Oregon Supreme Court has ruled.

The boy’s shoulder became stuck during delivery, and he was diagnosed with a permanent, disabling injury, The Oregonian reported.

A 1987 state law caps civil damages for pain and suffering at $500,000, but medical malpractice claims generally are not subject to that cap. Prenatal injuries to a fetus have been an exception, however, based on common law dating to 1857, when Oregon’s Constitution was ratified.

Reversing a Court of Appeals decision, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the case of Braedon Klutschkowski did not qualify as a prenatal injury.

Doctors at Oregon Medical Group failed to inform Braedon’s mother, Bobbi, of risk factors that greatly increased the probability that he would get stuck and sustain nerve damage if he were delivered vaginally, according to the court’s account of the case.

Doctors failed to propose that she instead deliver via cesarean section, said the opinion written by Justice Rives Kistler.

A jury also awarded his Springfield family economic damages of about $550,000.

“It means that Braedon gets adequately compensated for this injury and gets what the jury decided was adequate compensation,” said the family’s attorney, Kathryn Clarke of Portland. “I’m absolutely thrilled.”

The boy is now 9 years old, Clarke said.

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