Vasquez v. Double Press 2019
Zeferino Vasquez was cleaning a jam out of his employer’s hay baler when a hydraulic ram pinched him against the baler’s frame, crushing his spine. His injuries left him paraplegic. He filed a workers’ compensation claim and an action against the baler’s California manufacturer, alleging that the baler was a dangerously defective product. The case went to trial, and the jury found Mr. Vasquez entitled to $4.8 million in “noneconomic damages,” to compensate him for having to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. The baler manufacturer appealed, arguing that Mr. Vasquez was limited to $500,000 in noneconomic damages under ORS 31.710, which limits noneconomic damages to that amount except in cases that are “subject to” the workers’ compensation law. Mr. Vasquez argued that, because he was hurt on the job and filed a workers’ compensation claim, his case was subject to the workers’ compensation law. TCNF partner Jim Coon made the legal argument to the Oregon Supreme court, amicus curiae, on behelf of the Oregon Trial Lawyers’ Association, and, on April 4, 2019, the court agreed, holding that the $500,000 cap does not apply to cases arising out of work injuries. Now, in Oregon, while ORS 31.710 can be used by the defense to cap noneconomic damages in injury cases generally, it cannot be used to cap noneconomic damages in workplace injury cases.