What a great, great opinion from the Oregon Supreme Court today in Klutschkowski v. PeaceHealth, SC S059869 (September 26, 2013)
For a while it seemed as if Howell v. Boyle, 353 Or 359, 298 P3d 1 (2013), was going to send Oregon trial practice into chaos with trying to figure out ancient defenses available at common law to determine if the damages cap could apply to claims. In one fell swoop, the Court cleared up that notion, and righted the law that Howell left askew:
Because an action for medical malpractice is one for which “the right to jury trial was customary in 1857,” Article I, section 17, prohibits the legislature from limiting the jury’s determination of noneconomic damages. See id.; see also Hughes, 344 4 Or at 156 (recognizing that Article I, section 17, prohibits the legislature from modifying jury awards in actions that were recognized in 1857). It follows that applying ORS 31.710(1) to the jury’s damages award in this case violates that constitutional guarantee. Having reached that conclusion, we need not address plaintiffs’ arguments under Article I, section 10, or Article VII (Amended), section 3. Specifically, we need not decide whether, under Howell v. Boyle, 353 Or 359, 298 P3d 1 (2013), the $500,000 limit on noneconomic damages provided plaintiffs with a substantial remedy within the meaning of Article I, section 10.
Slip Op. at 33 (emphasis added). It doesn’t matter if there was a defense to a certain type of action, or whether comparative fault could nullify an award. If the type of action went to jury in 1857, no cap can apply. Well-reasoned, and great news for those injured by the carelessness or malice of others.
Cheers to Kathryn Clarke, Gene Hallman, and the rest of my OTLA amicus committee family who assisted in this case. It’s a major win.