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In a 2009 malpractice claim, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Hospital admitted to doctor negligence. However, OHSUHospital may not have to pay out the full award.

The case began when the child’s mother discovered a hard lump on her infant son’s body. The lump turned out to be a cancerous tumor.  During surgery in 2009, the medical team sliced through vessels to the left side of the liver that should not have been cut.  The “catastrophic” mistake nearly killed the infant. The boy went through seven surgeries in less than three weeks as doctors repaired leaking tissues, removed his spleen, and transplanted a portion of his mother’s liver into his body.  Every six weeks his blood is drawn to see if he is rejecting the liver transplant. Every six months he is checked for any possible cancer-like infection. The child faces a lifetime of monitoring, medication and the possibility of needing another liver transplant in the future.

A jury unanimously found OHSU responsible for the botched liver operation, and awarded the family $12 million. The decision exceeds the $3 million cap established by the Oregon Tort Claims Act, which limits how much OHSU and other public entities must pay for employees’ negligence causing personal injury or death.  Sadly, the cap doesn’t even cover the cost of the liver transplant. Even though OHSU has voluntarily paid the family the $3 million (much of which went to Stanford University Medical Center) under the Tort Claims Act, the plaintiff’s attorney said OHSU is hiding behind that cap instead of taking responsibility. The family still owes about $2.5 million to Stanford.

The right to trial by a jury is the most fundamental of our constitutional rights. Capping damages is a direct attack on those rights. Jurors, after thoughtful consideration of the evidence presented to them, should have the freedom to award damages based upon actual physical and emotional harm suffered by the victim.  The medical profession wants immunity from being responsible for negligence. Taking away the rights of patients injured by negligent doctors and hospitals will do nothing to improve health care; study after study has shown that tort reform does not lower a doctor’s insurance costs. Tort reform only provides inadequate compensation to victims.  If wrongdoers are not accountable for their actions, then society – read “taxpayers” – will pay for the wrongdoer’s transgressions and be forced to provide care for the victims.  Why should the burden be born by the victim or the taxpayer instead of the doctor and his insurance company (those who profit from treating the patient)?  Our court system is about justice; it is about fairness; it is about your rights. The best solution to medical malpractice is to reduce instances of it; this will reduce medical costs and improve the quality of patient care.  Hands off our American justice system.

If this case makes its way to the Oregon Supreme Court it will be the first legal challenge to the monetary cap since its revision in 2009.  We will be watching.


  1. Gravatar for Susan Bailey MSN RN-BC CLNC
    Susan Bailey MSN RN-BC CLNC

    It still astonishes me when I hear stories like this. It is reprehensible that these things should occur. The negligence that occurred has altered this child's future in so many ways, and the parent's financial futures as well. It is a terrible injustice to people that so many jurisdictions are doing this.

  2. Gravatar for jc

    So the verdict was $12 mil. The plaintiff attorney gets 40%, or $4.8 million, with another $100k-$200k going to court costs. Mark doesn't give a d#^*€ about the patient! he wants to protect that juicy $4.8 mil. We need medical courts to get rid of charlatan plaintiff attorneys like this.

  3. Gravatar for jc

    O.K., let's talk some reality here. Most doctors are hard working, caring, people. As I have said many times before , plaintiff attorneys lose 80-85% of there malpractice cases. This case is one of the very few to succeed. But before Mark Bello and Susan Bailey spike the football on this case, let's consider some things. The doctor in this case probably carries the standard $1 million insurance, which means his insurance co. Pays $1 million and that is it. Most of the docs I know don't have $10 - 12 million laying around to pay out this award. The hospital, apparently has another $3 million in insurance---so that is it $4 million total award. So if the damages are greater than $12 million, the taxpayer is gonna have to pick it up. Mark, you may not like it but that is life. If I got hit by an uninsured motorist, I may get policy limits, but afterthat, my medical expenses are mine.

  4. Gravatar for jc

    Gov. Chris Christie was recently interviewed. Among his many comments was that he could not believe Obama passed Obamacare without any malpractice tort reform. "That is how one sided Obamacare is. One side passed this bill without any negotiation any just crammed it down America's throat."Gov. Christy is dead right---WE NEED TORT REFORM!

  5. Gravatar for Jon

    Doc Cox: You talk out of both sides of you mouth. If policy limits already restrict recoveries to artificially low levels and if lawyers lose 85% of their cases, then why in hades do we need more reform? You and your negligent brothers and sisters already benefit from all these wins and all of these low limits policies. Your absurd tirades make greedy fools out of you and your profession

  6. Gravatar for jc

    Jon- -we need tort reform because the legal profession cannot handle complex medical issues in court. It is a travesty that it takes years and sometimes decades to resolve even simple cases in court. It is a travesty that untrained, incompetent plaintiff attorneys are allowed to file malpractices suits with no investigation on frivolous issues. If we had medical courts we could quickly address legitimate medical issues in a timely fashion benefiting both the patients and doctors. One of my colleagues got sued because he correctly said that the pt had liver cirrhosis. The patient did, but did not like that diagnosis because he was an alcoholic and it hurt his employment prospects and eventually the case was thrown out of court after a few years. It is cases like this that should not be filed that demand the we have medical courts.

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