Oregon damage caps may limit jury’s $12 million verdict against hospital may to less than family’s medical bills

by John Chapman

Back in 2009, Lori Horton discovered a hard lump in the body of her 6-month-old son Tyson that turned out to be a cancerous tumor. A few months later, Tyson had surgery at Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland. During the operation, the medical team sliced through vessels to the left side of the liver that should not have been cut. The hospital now concedes that the surgical team was negligent.

The mistake nearly killed Tyson. He boy went through seven surgeries in less than three weeks as doctors in Portland and at Stanford University’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, CA repaired leaking tissues, removed his spleen and transplanted a portion of his mother’s liver into his body. He did not return home for about three months. Now, Tyson must still have his blood drawn every six weeks to see if his body is rejecting the liver transplant. He also goes through specialized scans every six months to check for possible cancer-like infection. The specialists treating Tyson do not know how long his transplanted liver will last.

Tyson’s family sued the hospital and a jury unanimously found that OHSU Hospital should pay the family $12 million to compensate them for their damages. However, that amount greatly exceeds the maximum that may be recovered from a public institution such as OSHU according to a provision of the Oregon Tort Claims Act.

Under the state law, the cap for the hospital is $3 million. In this case, $3 million doesn’t even cover the cost of Tyson’s liver transplant. Of course, Tyson also faces a lifetime of monitoring and medication not to mention the possibility of needing a new liver.

Some are suggesting the case will make its way to the Oregon Supreme Court, where Tyson’s lawyers could challenge the constitutionality of the monetary cap. In 2007, that court ruled that the state’s cap applicable at the time – then only $200,000 – was too low and violated the state’s constitutional provision that every person “shall have remedy by due course of law for injury done him in his person, property, or reputation.” That court decision prompted new legislation in 2009 which created the $3 million limits that are in effect today.

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The attorneys at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have the experience and expertise to assist injured patients with their medical malpractice claims. Our attorneys have successfully represented numerous victims of medical malpractice. Among our attorneys’ recent verdicts, settlements and results are the following:

  • Jim Orr negotiated a settlement of $6.75 million on behalf of a family whose 8 year-old child was left with permanent brain damage as a result of medical errors at a VA hospital.
  • Michael Heygood won a $2.2 million jury verdict in a medical malpractice lawsuit involving a newborn infant who was prematurely discharged from the hospital even though it had low glucose levels.
  • Eric Pearson argued the appeal in the case of Columbia Medical Center of Las Colinas, Inc. v. Hogue, 271 S.W.3d 238 (Tex. 2009). The Texas Supreme Court upheld a finding of gross negligence against the defendant hospital in a medical malpractice case and affirmed the jury’s verdict of $9 million in favor of his clients.

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