Last night a Columbia County jury returned a record $1.6 million verdict for a man who lost his right leg in a pickup vs. motorcycle collision. It is a significant outcome, particularly as Columbia County is considered a conservative county for civil lawsuits. Court staff stated there hasn’t been a motor vehicle trial there in the past five years. Attorney Aaron DeShaw and his client are appreciative to the Columbia County jury for providing a fair trial to both the plaintiff and the defendant.
Despite the defendant admitting liability at the scene to police, he denied liability in the lawsuit and in his deposition. Defendant only admitted liability two weeks before trial. The total offer made on this case before trial was $25,000, and our client didn’t want to accept $25,000 for the loss of his leg, all of which would have gone to reimburse his health care insurer for the bills they had paid for the 20 surgeries at OHSU attempting to save his leg before amputation.
The verdict is even more surprising as the lawsuit only covered the plaintiff’s financial or “economic” losses from the crash. Plaintiff’s pain, suffering and change in quality of life were not compensated because he did not have insurance on his motorcycle at the time of this crash. The judge ruled that Oregon law prohibits people hurt, while not insured on the vehicle they are driving, from receiving any money for their personal loss, no matter how severe the injury. While our client had auto insurance at the time of the crash, his inability to be compensated for the loss of his leg because of a lack of motorcycle insurance underscores the importance of having insurance on every vehicle that is driven.
Attorney Aaron DeShaw was the lawyer of choice for the client’s family when they reviewed lawyers capabilities and trial record online. Oregon has the 7th lowest auto insurance claim payments in the United States according to the Insurance Research Council. While there are very few million-dollar verdicts in auto cases in the past 20 years in Oregon, DeShaw has obtained two in the past four years.
The case is also believed to be one of the few amputation trials that has gone to verdict anywhere in the country in the past 20 years. In preparation, Aaron DeShaw studied transcripts from one of the nation’s leading lawyers Tom Kline, who had done two amputation trials in the 1990s.
Trial lawyer Aaron DeShaw handled the amputation case at no cost to the client, to help him with this devastating loss. The defendant’s insurance will only cover a small part of the verdict, leaving the client with major personal and financial losses. But, the win will help the client obtain some money for his future losses, rather than the money all going to reimburse his health insurer for massive past medical bills.
Like many of DeShaw’s medically complex cases, he had much to research before this trial. DeShaw studied below-knee amputation, above knee amputation, and the need for a second amputation due to osteomyelitis which developed in the client’s remaining tibia after his first amputation. There is a wealth of information about the technology advancements of prosthetics including microprocessor knees, myoelectric prosthetics (such as iLimb by Touch Bionics), and Targeted Muscle Reinnervation (“TMR”). Amputation lawyer Aaron DeShaw carries this experience into future amputation cases he will handle for others who have lost an arm or leg.
Jury Verdicts NW reports that this is by far the highest civil verdict ever reported in the county. According to the company, which tracks trial verdicts throughout the northwest, the highest civil verdict on record before this in Columbia County was $132,000. The highest prior motor vehicle case verdict was $82,000. There is some evidence that a St. Helens lawyer obtained a jury verdict of $700,000 in the 1990s, for a person who was permanently disabled in a collision, but the case is unreported. A high percentage of civil cases tried in Columbia County result in defense verdicts - no payment to the injured person. All of this is surprising given the number of catastrophic injuries and trucking accident injuries that occur on Highway 30.
Special thanks to our client who entrusted us with the litigation of this life-changing injury. Aaron DeShaw and our staff are pleased that the jury validated the significance of his loss, and that he wasn’t left accepting nothing for his life-changing injury. We would also like to mention that special praise should be given to Hangar Prosthetics, which helped our client obtain a prosthetic leg during the pending litigation, despite him not having sufficient funds to purchase a prosthetic. He had lost his insurance when he was terminated from his job due to his inability to work after the injury, and was unable to pay for a prosthetic by the time his leg had healed enough to use one.