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Oregon Considering Changes to Liability Damage Limits in Personal Injury Cases

SALEM, OR -- May 11, 2007 -- A lawsuit pending in the state Supreme Court against the Oregon Health & Sciences University and its state-supported hospital has sparked a debate about limits on damages against a government agency. The case involves a boy whose brain became damaged during surgery.

Since 1991, Oregon has allowed a government agency to substitute itself for individual defendants. In this case, the hospital took the place of seven allegedly negligent employees, lowering potential liability from over $12 million to about $200,000 (Statesman Journal, April 25, 2007).

Oregon Limits on Losses for Pain and Suffering

Oregon law currently limits personal injury damages for "non-economic" injuries to $500,000. "Non-economic" injuries include pain, mental suffering, emotional distress, injury to reputation, loss of care, loss of companionship and the inability to carry on normal every day activities. Legislators are considering raising these limits in the form of S.B. 280, which was introduced earlier this year.

"The one point that everyone can agree on is that the limits have not been increased since 1987, and they are ridiculously low," commented Senate Judiciary Committee chairwoman Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) (Register-Guard, April 27, 2007).

Brayton Purcell's Position on Personal Injury Liability Caps

Brayton Purcell generally opposes liability limits because they hurt seriously injured and vulnerable people. If these caps do remain, we feel that they should at least be tied to a cost-of-living adjustment. We urge Oregon legislators to do the right thing and lift liability caps that protect wrongdoers but harm patients and consumers.

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