Traditionally, governments have been immune from any liability for personal injury or death. However, many states have given permission to be sued in court for negligence. However, special rules apply.
In Oregon, prior to filing any lawsuit in court, a person must give notice of a claim within a strict time limits. For a wrongful death claim, the personal representative must give notice of intent to make a claim within one year after the alleged loss or injury. Any other claim requires notice within 180 days of the date of injury.
One way to meet the notice requirement is to file a lawsuit within the time period required to give notice of intent to make a claim.
A claimant will also meet the notice requirement if the government agency receives "actual notice" of the claim. However, the best practice is to make a formal notice in writing.
One intent of the notice requirement is that it allows the government agency to conduct a quick and thorough investigation of the claim in order to make a decision on whether to resolve the claim, or deny responsibility. Of course, if the government agency denies responsibility, the claimant has the right to move forward with a lawsuit.
The statute also governs the amount and type of damages a claimant can seek under the There is no recovery of punitive damages. There also limits on the amount a claimant can recover for damages, depending upon the date of the occurrence. Currently, a claimant is limited to recovering $1.9 million for any cause of action arising prior to July 1, 2014. On July 1, 2014, the limit increases to $2.0 million. Beginning in 2015, the State Court Administrator determines whether to increase or decrease the recovery limits based on cost-of-living data.
The recent amendments to the statute arose from a claim against the Oregon Health Sciences University. The Oregon Supreme Court reviewed a jury verdict, and determined that the prior monetary limits were unconstitutional, because those limits deprived the plaintiff of the right to a jury trial under the Oregon Constitution.
A recent trial court decision is currently on appeal, and the new monetary limits will be subjected to constitutional scrutiny.
If you have a claim against any public body, whether it is the State of Oregon, or a local government agency, contact us at 503-325-8600. We can answer your questions, and make sure that you are preserving your claim.