A man who lost his left leg after a garbage truck struck him in March 2015 in downtown Portland will get another chance to argue for an award of noneconomic damages exceeding $500,000.
Oregon’s Supreme Court, in a decision announced Thursday, July 9, ruled that the $500,000 cap on such damages under state law violated the constitutional guarantee of access to a remedy in the courts.
“In enacting the damages cap (in 1987), the Legislature left defendants’ common-law duty of care intact, but deprived injured plaintiffs of the right to recover damages assessed for breach of that duty,” Chief Justice Martha Walters concluded for the court majority of five.
The case drew friend-of-the-court briefs from the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association on one side and the Oregon Medical Association/American Medical Association, Oregon Liability Reform Coalition/National Federation of Independent Business, and Chamber of Commerce of the United States and several other national groups on the other side. Such briefs offer arguments for the justices to consider but are only advisory.
Scott Raymond Busch, now 62, was awarded $10.5 million in noneconomic damages — known as “pain-and-suffering damages” — plus $3 million in economic damages by a Multnomah County jury in May 2016. It was slightly more than a year after a garbage truck owned by McInnis Waste Systems struck Busch at Southwest Morrison Street and Fifth Avenue. Busch’s left leg ended up under the truck and had to be amputated above the knee.