OHSU, OTLA jointly propose changes in Oregon Tort Claims Act

09/11/08  Portland, Ore.

The proposal has been memorialized in a memorandum of understanding between the two parties

Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) have agreed on a joint proposal for new tort liability limits to be made to the Oregon Tort Claims Act Interim Task Force, the Governor, and the Oregon Legislature. The joint proposal is a result of sessions mediated by U.S. District Court Judge Garr King, and has been memorialized in a memorandum of understanding between the two parties.

Terms of the joint proposal for all public bodies include:

  • The “per claim” limit would be set at $1.5 million effective July 1, 2009. The limit would increase by $100,000 per year for the next 5 years to $2 million.

 

  • The “per occurrence” limit (multiple claimants) would be set at $3 million effective July 1, 2009. The limit would increase by $200,000 per year for the next 5 years to $4 million.

 

  • The new limits cover all injuries that occurred on or after December 28, 2007, the date of the Clarke decision by the Oregon Supreme Court.

 

  • After the five-year period, both limits would increase annually by 4 percent. This is meant to reflect expected increases in costs of living, but is not tied to an inflation index such as the consumer price index (CPI).

 

  • There is no separate sub-limit for non-economic damages. Previously, non-economic damages had been capped as a sub-limit of $100,000 within the $200,000 tort cap limit.

 

In addition, the parties propose an expedited review process. Should the new limits be challenged on constitutional grounds, the case would bypass the Court of Appeals and go directly to the Oregon Supreme Court for review.

The mediated sessions included OHSU Executive Vice President Steve Stadum and OTLA representative Richard Lane, an attorney with Lawrence Wobbrock, PC, of Portland, both members of the Oregon Tort Claims Act Interim Task Force. The interim task force, established by the Oregon Legislature in February, was charged with making recommendations to the 2009 legislature on needed changes to the Oregon Tort Claims Act.

“The compromise agreement ensures the availability of vital public services while providing access to justice for Oregonians and their families. We look forward to working with the state policymakers and other stakeholders to move ahead on enacting this equitable policy,” said Lane.

Steve Stadum said, “We’re pleased to have reached this agreement. We agree with OTLA that this proposal strikes a fair balance between Oregonians who need public services and the need to compensate injured claimants. We’re optimistic that the governor, the legislature and the task force will view this as a positive step forward.”