In another compassionate display by an Oregon court, a judge drastically cut a jury award for a Portland man who lost his leg to a city garbage truck. Damages for emotional distress have been reduced from $10.5 million to $500,000, continuing a pattern of irresponsibility and refusal to adequately compensate victims who are wrongfully injured.
It seems that in almost any Oregon personal injury case, the injured party cannot collect more than $500,000 for emotional distress, regardless of what sum a jury feels is deserved, or how much their lives have transformed because of the accident.
Earlier this year, Judge Michael Greenlick of the Multnomah County Circuit Court scaled back a jury award worth $10.5 million by ten million dollars. He spent over six months deciding whether or not to reduce the award, granted to plaintiff Scott Busch, before ultimately issuing a lengthy explanation for cutting back. His seven page judicial opinion heavily referenced case law and the Oregon Constitution. Of particular interest is the Horton decision in which the Oregon Supreme court reinstated the cap on noneconomic damages.
Had he found that Busch’s case did not meet the constitution’s call for a “substantial remedy,” Judge Greenlick could have ignored the damages cap. In Busch’s case, Greenlick considered an award of $3 million for financial losses, which would be untouched by his reduction. He felt that those $3 million in addition to $500,000 for emotional distress was a substantial amount.
In the end, Busch will receive approximately 26% of the total jury award. Considering past appeals, Greenlick found that there was only one case where the cap was deemed unconstitutional because the plaintiff was going to receive only 1.2% of the total.
Such a ruling is just one example of a growing trend that is harming injury victims. While Greenlick’s decision in the Busch case won’t directly affect other civil suits, it will carry an influence on future pretrial negotiations.
How Busch was Robbed by Horton v. OHSU
Thanks in no small part to Horton, a 57-year old Scott Raymond Busch man lost a $10 million award for a severed leg that he lost when crossing a street in downtown Portland. Busch was lawfully crossing the street in a crosswalk when a garbage truck operated by Allied Waste Services crashed into him after committing a series of traffic infractions. The impact took his leg from above the knee. Busch maintained consciousness throughout the traumatic incident.
Months of work were lost due to the injury, and he struggled with mobility as he learned to walk with a low quality prosthetic because he could not afford anything more. When he did return to work, Busch expressed to the jury that he stayed at his desk for lunch because the prosthetic caused discomfort. There were several events he missed out on due to his injury, including the ability to help his son move into a dorm room when he began his college education.
By reviving caps on damages, the Horton decision greatly influenced all future personal injury lawsuits. In Horton, a little boy who was severely injured by the incompetence of medical staff at Oregon Health and Science University received just $3 million in damages for enduring multiple life-threatening surgeries after a jury awarded over $12 million. The $3 million was nowhere near enough for the boy’s family to pay back the children’s hospital at Stanford University in California- where the boy’s life was saved- and pay for future medical expenses.
The $12 million was an estimate that the jury took two weeks to calculate, taking into consideration past and future medical expenses and damages for pain and suffering. $6 million alone was awarded just for past and future medical expenses, and the other half of the award was for pain and suffering.
When decisions like these are made, judges ensure that the entities acting negligently are not actually reprimanded for the harm they have caused. By only granting Busch enough for financial and medical losses, Judge Greenlick stripped him of his right to damages for emotional pain and suffering for having endured a traumatic loss of limb.
If you or someone you know has been injured due to negligence, you deserve the aid of a Portland personal injury attorney who strives to uphold your rights and fights for every penny you are entitled to by law. RizkLaw is a personal injury law firm in Portland with years of experience handling injury claims. Call RizkLaw at (503) 245-5677 to discuss your case. You do not pay a dime until you receive compensation.