January 17, 2020

Noneconomic Damages Limit Case Pending Before Oregon Supreme Court

Keating Jones Hughes appellate attorney Hillary Taylor filed an amicus brief in the Oregon Supreme Court in Busch v McInnis Waste Systems. The issue before the court is whether Oregon’s $500,000 limit on noneconomic damages in certain civil cases is constitutional under Article I, section 10, to the state constitution which provides, among other guarantees, that a person shall have a right to a remedy. The limit on noneconomic damages was enacted in 1987 and has not been altered, although the legislature has considered it often, including in the 2019 session. Oregon’s highest court upheld the damages limit enacted in the Oregon Tort Claims Act which applies to actions against public bodies, in 2016 in Horton v. OHSU, 359 Or 168 (2016). In Horton, the court overruled prior case law that had invalidated limits on damages under Oregon’s remedy clause and trial by jury provision. The question before the court in Busch is whether the constitution also permits the legislature to enact the limit on damages in ORS 31.710. The limit on damages is considered critical to the continued provision of high quality medical care to Oregonians. In light of its importance to medical providers and all of us Oregonians who are patients, Hillary Taylor filed a brief for amici curiae Oregon Medical Association, American Medical Association, and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Oral argument was held 1/15/20, and the court’s decision is anticipated sometime in the next calendar year.

You may read the brief here.