Vasquez v. Double Press Mfg., Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Law
  • Date Filed: 05-04-2016
  • Case #: A154774
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Egan, J. for the Court; Armstrong, P.J.; & Hadlock, C.J.

If a plaintiff's claims are covered under Article I, section 17 of the Oregon Constitution, ORS 31.710(1) cannot reduce the amount of damages that a jury determines is proper.

Defendant appealed the trial court’s denial of its motion to cap noneconomic damages. Plaintiff was crushed by a machine at work and filed suit against Defendant for negligence. After a trial, the jury awarded Plaintiff economic and noneconomic damages exceeding the limit under ORS 31.710(1). Defendant moved to reduce the jury’s award to the statutory cap of $500,000, but the trial court denied the motion and only reduced the award based on the level of Plaintiff’s contribution to his injuries. On appeal, Defendant argued the trial court erred when it refused to reduce the damages to the statutory cap because Article I, section 17 did not prevent the court’s application of ORS 31.710(1) to cap noneconomic damages. The Court held that a plaintiff has “a right to a jury trial under Article I, section 17, for ‘civil cases in which the right to jury trial was customary in 1857, or in cases of like nature’” and that the claim is not required to have a “precise historical analog.” Plaintiff’s claims were civil claims under Article I, section 17, and the amount of damages in a civil suit is a question of fact for the jury. Imposing limitations on the award amount would violate Article I, section 17. Affirmed.

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