Horton v. OHSUAnnotate this Case
The question this case presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review was whether a statute limiting a state employee’s tort liability violated either the remedy clause of Article I, section 10, of the Oregon Constitution or the jury trial clauses of Article I, section 17, and Article VII (Amended), section 3, of the Oregon Constitution. The trial court held that the statute, as applied to the state employee, violated each of those provisions and entered a limited judgment against the employee for the full amount of the jury’s verdict. Plaintiff’s six-month-old son developed a cancerous mass on his liver. Two doctors at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) participated in an operation to remove the mass: Dr. Harrison, a specialist in pediatric surgery, and Dr. Durant, a pediatric surgical fellow in training. During the operation, the doctors inadvertently transected blood vessels going to the child’s liver, resulting in the child having to undergo a liver transplant, removal of his spleen, additional surgeries, and lifetime monitoring due to the risks resulting from the doctors’ act. Plaintiff brought this action on her son’s behalf against Harrison, Durant, OHSU, and Pediatric Surgical Associates, P.C. The trial court granted Pediatric Surgical Associates’ motion for summary judgment, and dismissed Durant as a result of an agreement among plaintiff, OHSU, and Harrison. Pursuant to that agreement, Harrison and OHSU admitted liability for the child’s injuries and plaintiff’s case against Harrison and OHSU went to the jury to determine the amount of the child’s damages. The jury found that plaintiff’s son had sustained and will sustain economic damages of $6,071,190.38 and noneconomic damages of $6,000,000. After the jury returned its verdict, OHSU and Harrison filed a motion to reduce the jury’s verdict to $3,000,000 based on the Oregon Tort Claims Act. The trial court granted the motion as to OHSU. The trial court, however, denied the motion as to Harrison. Harrison appealed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, concluding that applying the Tort Claims Act limit to plaintiff’s claim against defendant did not violate the remedy clause in Article I, section 10, nor does giving effect to that limit violate the jury trial clauses in Article I, section 17, or Article VII (Amended), section 3.