Oregon Senate Resolution 12 would limit awards of non-economic damages against religious organizations to $1 million. The proposed amendment to the Oregon Constitution would be referred to the people for their approval or rejection at the next regular general election.
“A million dollars for pain and suffering I think is more than adequate,” said State Senator Fred Girod, one of the sponsors of the resolution. He mentioned lawsuits against the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts as examples of excessive awards for pain and suffering.
A huge sexual abuse scandal forced the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland to file for bankruptcy in 2004. One plaintiff sought more than $130 million and another, $25 million for compensatory and punitive damages. In April 2007, the archdiocese settled with 177 claimants for $75 million.
“There just comes a point when I think it’s excessive,” Girod said. According to Girod, opposition to tort reform in the Senate comes from the Democrats. “The trial lawyers are a big part of the Democratic Party, and the trial lawyers don’t like that obviously because any restrictions on payouts restrict what they’re going to get on commission.