An Oklahoma state law that limited damages for pain and suffering in a personal injury lawsuit has been rejected by the state’s Supreme Court.
The justices ruled that a statute that limited noneconomic awards to $350,000 was unconstitutional because it treated injured survivors, in terms of awards, differently from those who don’t survive.
In the case considered by the state Supreme Court, an oilfield worker had to have his arm amputated after an accident in 2012 in which a boom fell from a crane and hit him. The man was 34 at the time.
A jury in Oklahoma County said the man and his wife were entitled to $6 million combined for pain and suffering, but the law forced it to be reduced to $350,000 each.
The Supreme Court reversed the judge’s order to modify the jury award and referred the case back to district court. The judge there has been ordered to reinstate the jury’s award in full.
The law requiring a cap in personal injury cases was adopted by the Legislature in 2011 and signed by former Gov. Mary Fallin.
“The failing of the statute is that it purports to limit recovery for pain and suffering in cases where the plaintiff survives the injury-causing event, while persons who die from the injury-causing event face no such limitation,” the justices wrote in their order.
Through no fault of his own, this man suffered a significant, life-changing injury that will affect him the rest of his life, which the jury recognized. People impacted by the negligence of others deserve pain and suffering compensation.