OMA takes tort reform battle to the voters

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OMA takes tort reform battle to the voters

Postby Webmaster » February 25th, 2005, 11:10 am

Oregon Health Forum, September 1999

OMA takes tort reform battle to the voters

The multi-million dollar tort reform campaign is off and running. Legislation concocted by the Oregon Medical Assn. with the help of Sen. Neil Bryant (R-Bend), who chaired the powerful Judiciary Committee, sent a constitutional amendment flying through the chambers the last few days of the session after the Oregon Supreme Court overturned the $500,000 cap on non-economic damages. The OMA did what's known in political circles as "gut and stuff," using a bill drafted by Rep. Kevin Mannix (R-Salem) that would have regulated nude dancing.

If the OMA convinces voters to change the constitution next May, the 2001 legislature will have the power to establish financial limits on non-economic as well as economic damages in liability cases. More than 70 organizations have jumped aboard the OMA's bandwagon - drug companies, insurers, dentists, hospitals, the business community and the long-term care industry.

In 1987, the OMA led the march to place a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages, which, it claims, has reduced malpractice premiums by nearly 50%. Without a limit on non-economic damages, communities may encounter difficulty supporting day care centers and little league teams because of the unquantifiable risks faced by insurance companies, said Dr. Richard Kincade, OMA's president. "If we don't have the ability to control the costs of damage awards, we'll be back in the same position we were in the 1980s, seeing rapid increases in premiums," said Kincade.

The Oregon Trial Lawyers Assn. intends to wage a vigorous fight. "This is about whether people should have access to a trial by jury or leave that right in the hands of politicians," said Michael Kesten, OTLA's communications director.


Webmaster Note: Measure 81 failed on the May 2000 ballot by a vote of 3 to 1. The measure came about after the Oregon Supreme Court found a similar 1987 law unconstitutional. Within days of that ruling, this new effort started by gutting an existing bill by Kevin Manni restricting "nude dancing."
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