Oregon High Court Rules State’s Pain And Suffering Cap Unconstitutional

July 13, 2020

The Oregon Supreme Court ruled a law limiting noneconomic damages in personal injury cases to $500,000 is unconstitutional because it violates the legal remedy clause of the Oregon constitution.

Capping noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, deprives individuals of their rights to court access, the state’s highest court decided late last week.

The ruling stems from a case in which Scott Raymond Busch brought a personal injury claim for damages against defendant, McInnis Waste Systems Inc., a private waste management firm whose garbage truck hit the plaintiff in a crosswalk in downtown Portland.

A jury determined that Busch had sustained, and will sustain, economic damages of $3,021,922 and awarded noneconomic damages of $10.5 million to the plaintiff, whose leg was lost in the accident. That was subsequently reduced to the $500,000 cap by a trial court.

A court of appeals reversed that decision, ruling that the cap deprives individuals of their rights to court access, and the state’s high court last week upheld that ruling.

The court in its ruling noted that its decision is limited to circumstances that this case presented and that it expressed no opinion on whether damages caps in other cased comply with the section of the Oregon constitution in question.

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