Oregon House of Representatives Passes Bill to Increase Statutory Cap on Non-Economic Damages in Wrongful Death Cases to $1.5 Mi

On February 10, 2016, the Oregon State House of Representatives passed House Bill 4136, which proposes to increase the $500,000 limit on noneconomic damages recoverable in wrongful death actions to $1.5 million. The bill has not been voted on in the senate. ORS § 31.710 defines non-economic damages as the “subjective, nonmonetary losses, including but not limited to pain, mental suffering, emotional distress, humiliation, injury to reputation, loss of care, comfort, companionship and society, loss of consortium, inconvenience and interference with normal and usual activities apart from gainful employment.” If the bill passes, it will have significant ramifications for defendants as plaintiffs usually allege substantial non-economic damages for pain and suffering. 
Oregon’s statutory cap on non-economic damages has previously been challenged by plaintiffs. In Lakin v. Secoco Products, Inc. 329 Or 62 (1999), the Oregon Supreme Court held that the statutory cap was unconstitutional in personal injury cases not involving in death, because it improperly interfered with a plaintiff’s right to trial by jury. However, in Greist v. Phillps, 322 Or 281 (1995), the Oregon Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the statutory cap in wrongful death cases, because the cause of action for wrongful death was created by the legislature, not common law. The current $500,000 cap on non-economic damages has not changed since first enacted in 1987.
We will continue to update you on the status of this significant bill.

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