Punitive damages are determined by juries in Oregon. Despite recent efforts in some states to limit the scope of punitive damages available to litigants in court cases, the Oregon Courts have consistently allowed large punitive damage awards, if the jury has evidence to conclude that the conduct was sufficiently reprehensible. In this regard, the Oregon Courts give great deference to the jury’s determination of what is appropriate. They will not independently overrule the jury because they have come to a different conclusion about what is appropriate. Although the evidence in support of punitive damages must be clear and convincing, the standard of proof “relates how a jury weighs the evidence, not to how a trial court assesses the capability of the evidence to establish facts.” See Faber v. Asplundh Tree Expert, 106 Or App 601, 606, 810 P2d 384, rev den, 312 Or 80 (1991). Also see Bolt v. Influence, Inc. 333 Or 572, 578 n 2, 43 P3d 425 (2002).
In pursuing a personal injury or wrongful death case, it is important to understand all of the available claims a victim may have. When workers are injured or killed on the job in Oregon, more than one legal option may be available to them. It is typical for the worker to have a workers compensation claim (which is processed through the employer’s worker’s comp insurance carrier). If the worker’s employer or coworker is solely responsible for the worker’s injury or death, then a worker’s compensation insurance claim will likely be the only legal option available to the worker. This is what’s known as “worker’s comp exclusivity.” In this situation, the injured worker (or a deceased worker’s family) would be well served by calling a competent worker’s comp attorney to discuss their claim. However, if someone other than the employee’s direct employer or coworker is responsible for the worker’s injury or death—or if the employer did not offer worker’s compensation insurance—the injured or killed employee may have a claim under Oregon’s Employer Liability Law.