Lawmakers Advance Measure That Would Lift Cap On Noneconomic Damages

Mar 26, 2019
Originally published on March 25, 2019 3:15 pm

Oregon would no longer limit the amount of money that juries can award for noneconomic damages under a bill approved in the Oregon House Monday.

There’s no limit to the amount that juries can award for economic damages in lawsuits. Those cover things like medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. But Oregon has a half-million dollar cap on noneconomic damages. Those cover what’s sometimes called “pain and suffering,” and are meant to compensate for long-term emotional distress.

Supporters of House Bill 2014, including Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, said it's an arbitrary and unfair limit.  “Our law on the books today puts a cap on fairness, it puts a cap on accountability, and ultimately I believe it puts a cap on justice for regular Oregonians,” she said.

The vote was mostly along party lines. Many Republicans, including House GOP leader Carl Wilson of Grants Pass, said the current limit offers predictability to health care providers and others who are likely to be sued. “We already have a reasonable and a just law on the books that gives badly need compensation to those who are injured, and at the same time gives stability to our health care system,” said Wilson. “Why damage something that already works?”

The measure now heads to the Oregon Senate. A similar bill was introduced in 2017, but failed to come up for a vote.

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