Oregon Case Update: Oregon Supreme Court Determines that the Noneconomic Damages Cap Does Not Apply in Any Case Involving Workers’ Compensation

Oregon Case Update: Oregon Supreme Court Determines that the Noneconomic Damages Cap Does Not Apply in Any Case Involving Workers’ Compensation

From the Desk of Ryan McLellan: Oregon’s $500,000 noneconomic damages cap purports to limit the amount of noneconomic damages a plaintiff can recover. One purported exception, which has long been advocated for by plaintiff’s counsel in an attempt to avoid the cap, states that the cap is not applicable to cases “subject to” Oregon’s workers’ compensation benefits law. Does the exception really mean that any claim where an injured worker has received workers’ compensation benefits for an injury is not subject to the cap? Read on to find out.

Claims Pointer: Oregon’s Supreme Court has determined that Oregon’s $500,000 cap on noneconomic damages does not apply if the plaintiff has received workers’ compensation benefits for the injury at issue. Based on its expansive interpretation of the statutory cap, any lawsuit where the plaintiff received workers’ compensation benefits is no longer subject to the noneconomic damages cap. Previously, though the noneconomic damages cap stood on perilous constitutional ground, claims for wrongful death—including those arising from a workplace injury—were subject to the cap. This case ends that trend and means the damages in any wrongful death or significant injury case where workers’ compensation is involved is no longer limited by statute.

Vasquez v. Double Press Mfg., Inc., 364 Or 609 (Apr. 4, 2019).

Oregon’s $500,000 noneconomic damages cap is set out in ORS 31.710(1). It reads, in its entirety:

Except for claims subject to ORS 30.260 and ORS chapter 656, in any civil action seeking damages arising out of bodily injury, including emotional injury or distress, death or property damage of any one person including claims for loss of care, comfort, companionship and society and loss of consortium, the amount awarded for noneconomic damages shall not exceed...

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