Oregon Supreme Court approves cap for damages in car accident suit

The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the city of Beaverton, deciding that it is only required to pay $200,000 of the over $1 million in damages initially granted to a woman who was injured after being struck by a police car. The state's highest court agreed to hear the case after Beaverton took the case to a civil appeals court, claiming that the Oregon Tort Claims Act protects it from having to pay more than $200,000 in damages. However, the case has yet to be resolved, as the Supreme Court only forwarded its recommendation, which is not legally binding, to the appeals court.

The accident at the center of the case occurred in 2009 when a victim was struck by a police car as she walked across an unmarked crossing at night, severely injuring her and incurring at least $500,000 in medical expenses. A jury awarded the woman more than $1 million, finding that she and the police officer were equally responsible for the wreck. The city was ordered to provide $507,500 to the victim, while the officer was held accountable for the remaining damages. The award was reportedly the highest ever recorded in Beaverton.

The Supreme Court ultimately issued a 4-3 decision in support of the city, asserting that $200,000 is an acceptable award. However, an opinion filed by one of the three dissenting judges said that ruling left the woman "with a constitutionally inadequate remedy that is incapable of restoring her injured rights." The woman's attorney said he and his client were "disappointed" by the ruling and said that she will be left with less than half of what the jury initially decided to be her rightful compensation if the appeals court follows the Supreme Court's recommendation.

A lawyer representing the city of Beaverton said the ruling is important for the cities and government bodies across Oregon, as it clarifies cities' rights to place caps on liabilities.

Source: Oregon Live, "Oregon Supreme Court rules Beaverton can cap award to woman hit by police car," Nicole Friedman, March 15, 2013

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