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OHSU Hospital may avoid paying $12 million malpractice verdict


Followers of our Oregon medical malpractice blog will be interested to learn that a Multnomah County jury recently reached a verdict in a malpractice suit filed against OHSU Hospital. The jury unanimously ordered the hospital to pay a family $12 million over a botched operation on a young boy. Medical mistakes made by doctors during the 9-month-old's liver operation in 2009 forced the boy to have an emergency liver transplant. The "catastrophic" mistake by doctors nearly resulted in the baby's death, and he had to undergo several additional surgeries to repair the damage.

In the malpractice claim, the hospital admitted to the negligence of its doctors. However, OHSU Hospital may not have to pay out all of the multi-million dollar award because the verdict exceeds a cap on claims for employee negligence in Oregon. The cap was established by the Oregon Tort Claims Act and limits the amount public bodies can be ordered to pay in cases such as this one that involve Hospital negligence.

The cap on damage awards is $3 million. However, this amount would not even pay for the cost of the boy's liver transplant. The boy also needs life-long care following the botched operation. Regular monitoring, medication and another liver transplant are all in his future.

The case may eventually make its way to the Oregon Supreme Court. If so, it would be the first legal challenge to the monetary cap since its revision several years ago. OHSU Hospital has already paid the $3 million cap amount. However, that amount has already been spent to partially satisfy the boy's medical bills. Despite the payment, the family still owes Stanford University Medical Center $2.5 million for the transplant. The case is an important one for Oregonians to follow since it may have a big impact on future awards in malpractice cases.

Source: The Oregonian, "OHSU lawsuit: Jury returns $12 million verdict against hospital, but OHSU may not pay it," Helen Jung, Sept. 19, 2013

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