Will Oregon Tort Caps Increase?

Last week, the Oregon Senate Judiciary Committee approved SB 311 — a proposal to increase tort caps on public agencies, such as state entities and OHSU. The bill will now go to the House and Senate. Under old laws, the liability caps on public bodies was $200,000. Under the new proposal, the state damages cap will increase to $1.5 million per claim, and the amount will increase by $100,000 annually until 2015. Local governments, such as counties and cities, will have lower caps: $500,000 per claim and $1 million per incident. In addition, these new caps will be indexed to inflation.

Under the new proposal the distinction between economic and non-economic (i.e., “pain and suffering”) damages will be eliminated. Non-economic damages are difficult to quantify, and many trial lawyers contend that the “pain and suffering” clause hurts people with lower incomes (because they make less money, their loss in income due to pain and suffering is often considered to be much less).