Measure 35

Argument in Opposition

Measure 35
Argument in Opposition

AARP, with 456,000 Oregon members over the age of 50, recommends a "NO" vote on Measure 35.

AARP opposes this measure because:

Rather than arbitrary limits on damage awards, AARP supports reform that would promote access to the courts for all legitimate claims and accelerate the resolution of cases; alternative dispute resolution for medical malpractice cases that could better serve injured patients; and insurance reform that provides for malpractice insurance rates that fairly and accurately reflect claims experience. AARP also supports efforts to eliminate all preventable medical injuries and accidents due to procedural errors or inadequacy.

Proponents of Measure 35 have suggested that it will limit frivolous lawsuits, reduce insurance premiums, and attract physicians to rural areas. There is nothing in the language of this measure that guarantees those results.

For these reasons, AARP opposes Measure 35 and urges Oregonians to vote "NO".

(This information furnished by Gerald Cohen, State Director, AARP Oregon.)

Argument in Opposition


Our state Constitution guarantees Oregonians the fundamental right to a civil trial by a jury of neutral, unbiased Oregon citizens. On a case by case basis, juries weigh all the evidence and decide the appropriate amount of damages, if any.

Measure 35's "one size fits all" revision to our Constitution is unfair, misguided and will drastically limit the rights of every citizen. Make no mistake: studies have shown that seniors, women, children and those who have suffered the most severe injuries will be hurt the most by caps on non-economic damages.

Why doesn't 35's explanatory statement mention that it will "reduce medical liability insurance rates" and "improve patient access to medical care?" Because it won't! Other states have shown that just limiting injured patients' rights has had little effect on either of these issues.

Oregon's largest medmal insurer is Northwest Physicians Mutual, which happens to be owned by its physician policyholders. Just this June they stated, "Our forecast is that our rates are at a correct level, and that in 2004 we should return to profitability." In fact, OB/GYN rates here are lower than California, which has had caps on damages for decades! Crisis?

In truth, the real healthcare crisis is a hidden epidemic of preventable medical mistakes. Oregonians suffer from 10,000 to 13,000 medical errors annually, some causing a lifetime of pain and medical problems. Of these, between 700 and 1,800 will likely result in death. It's hardly "frivolous" or "a jackpot lottery" when these victims or their families seek compensation for such tragedies. They're simply asking that healthcare professionals be treated the same as all of us and every other Oregon business – that they accept full responsibility for the consequences of their mistakes.

The next life at risk may be your own. Please do what's right:

Americans Mad and Angry!
an Oregon non profit organization focusing on
patient safety, disclosure and accountability in healthcare
"The Other AMA"

(This information furnished by Tom & Deandra Vallier, Americans Mad and Angry!)

Argument in Opposition

Dear Oregon Voter,

My name is Pete Sorenson, an elected Lane County Commissioner. I grew up in Coos County, graduated from the University of Oregon, ran a private law firm, and served as an elected Oregon State Senator and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. I've been a licensed Oregon attorney for 22 years. I have represented both injured workers and professionals such as veterinarians and doctors. It is as a former practicing attorney that I am speaking to you on this issue and why I oppose Constitutional Amendment 35. This measure aims to prevent victims of malpractice from seeking fair awards.

This measure aims to reduce the amount of compensation that an Oregon jury can award for injuries and pain suffered as the result of doctor negligence. It doesn't prevent "frivolous lawsuits." This measure doesn't lower the cost of health care.

Passing this measure will not lower insurance premiums. In fact studies show that states without caps on jury awards have lower premiums. To lower insurance premiums requires reform of the insurance industry, an industry where in the first nine months of 2003 profits increased by 437% for health and life insurance companies.

In 2000, Oregonians voted three to one against a Constitutional Amendment to limit a jury's ability to decide damages. This measure is just another attempt to go against the will of the people of Oregon.

The solution is not to deny people their day in court and a fair award made by a jury of their peers, but to lower insurance premiums. Please join me in voting NO on Constitutional Amendment 35.

Pete Sorenson

P.S. - If you have any questions about the seriousness of this Constitutional amendment and why I oppose it, please contact me at Pete Sorenson PO Box 10836, Eugene, Oregon 97440 or by calling me at (541) 485-6726 or by sending me email at

(This information furnished by Peter Sorenson.)

Argument in Opposition

Protect Patients – Not Insurance Company Profits
Vote NO on Constitutional Amendment 35

Public Citizen is a 160,000-member non-partisan organization with 35 years experience fighting for patients' rights and quality medical care, and against health care and insurance company profiteering.

Insurance companies and HMOs will always work to boost their bottom line and to maximize insurance profits. But that doesn't mean patients should have to pay the price by limiting their right to hold doctors, HMOs and hospitals accountable for carelessness or negligence.

Wrong Approach for Oregon Consumers

The "remedy" proposed by the insurance industry is to put a $500,000 limit on so-called non-economic damages, no matter how severe the case. That's bad medicine. Such a limit would only restrict patients whose quality of life has been dramatically affected – those suffering from severe brain damage, paralysis, blindness or loss of a limb. These are the patients who need the most protection – not the least!

The sponsors of Constitutional Amendment 35 claim it's needed to prevent doctors from leaving Oregon or retiring. But state records show that the number of active Oregon doctors rose 12 percent from 2000 to 2004, the same rate of increase as from 1995 to 1999, before insurance companies claim the "crisis" began. Doctors in rural Oregon also increased 12 percent from 2000 to 2004. And key medical specialists, such as those practicing OB/GYN, emergency medicine and general surgery, increased at a faster rate from 2000 to 2004 than from 1995 to 1999, state records show.

The real "crisis" in Oregon is the considerable amount of medical malpractice that is committed by a small number of doctors, many of whom go undisciplined. It would be a huge mistake to restrict patients' jury rights and make it more difficult to hold doctors, hospitals and insurance companies fully accountable for serious injuries.

Public Citizen Urges a NO vote on Amendment 35


Joan Claybrook
President, Public Citizen

Frank Clemente
Director, Public Citizen

(This information furnished by Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen; Frank Clemente, Director, Public Citizen's Congress Watch.)

Argument in Opposition


I urge Oregonians to "Vote No" on Measure 35.

You'll hear from the proponents of Measure 35 that high medical malpractice insurance costs are driving doctors out of Oregon. They argue that doctors in rural Oregon cannot afford the high cost of malpractice insurance and must either quit their practice or move somewhere else. The proponents of Measure 35 claim that the only way to resolve this issue is to amend a provision of the Oregon Constitution that has been in effect since 1859, when Oregon became a state.

We can solve this problem without amending the Oregon Constitution—and we've already made a great start.

When I took office as Governor, one of my major concerns was how to provide Oregonians with access to doctors in rural Oregon. I was particularly concerned that women in rural Oregon were losing access to obstetrical care. With broad bi-partisan support in the 2003 legislature, we passed House Bill 3630, which established a program to provide medical malpractice insurance relief to rural doctors.

Through this program, SAIF—our state-owned workers' compensation insurance company—is providing low-cost malpractice insurance to rural doctors, thereby making sure that rural Oregonians have access to health care.

We now provide low-cost malpractice insurance to over 1,000 doctors who practice in rural Oregon.

Our new program has cut the malpractice insurance rates for obstetricians by 80 percent. Family practitioners who provide obstetric services have seen malpractice insurance rates cut by 60 percent, and malpractice insurance rates for all other types of rural doctors have been cut by 40 percent.

We don't need to amend the Oregon Constitution to solve this problem by damaging our system of jury trials. Let's preserve our ability to create flexible solutions to the ever-changing world of health care costs.

I urge you to vote NO on Measure 35.

Theodore R. Kulongoski

(This information furnished by Theodore R. Kulongoski.)

Argument in Opposition

Family Doctor Warns Oregonians:

Constitutional Amendment 35:
The wrong prescription for a misdiagnosed problem.

As a family physician, my mission is to care for my patients, not limit their rights. And as a veteran who has fought for my country, I am deeply opposed to any effort to limit our freedom and Constitutional rights.

That's why I'm urging my patients to vote No on Amendment 35. It's too drastic and goes too far.

The vast majority of my colleagues are excellent physicians. I would trust them with my life. But there are a small handful of bad practitioners out there- five percent according to the National Practitioner's Database- who create 55% of all cases of terrible negligence and error. And this amendment does nothing to improve the safety of our patients or crackdown on negligent physicians creating problems for the rest of us. Even making physicians use a computer to write down prescriptions could save a lot of lives.

I've been an active member of the Oregon Medical Association since 1976, and would like nothing more than to see premiums go down. But Constitutional Amendment 35 attacks the victims of bad medicine, instead of an out-of-control insurance industry that continues to hike rates for everyone. Instead of targeting patients, we should make insurance companies open their books and shed light on ever increasing rate hikes.

Don't be fooled by the insurance and pharmaceutical companies' slick ad campaign. This amendment would limit patients' rights and do nothing to control health care costs. And Constitutional Amendment 35 asks Oregonians to give up a basic, fundamental right. Once you lose that right, it won't be easy to ever get it back. So exercise another right:


(This information furnished by Dr. Thomas Saddoris.)

Argument in Opposition


My name is Kathy Brooks and I want to urge Oregonians to consider how this Constitutional Amendment would hurt real people like my son, Jerry.

I personally experienced the trauma of medical negligence while giving birth to my son. Jerry's 7-years-old and he's a beautiful, blond-haired, blue-eyed boy. But he's also a quadriplegic because of a health provider's negligence. Jerry's unable to sit, stand, crawl, or even raise his head. He can't speak. He'll never even say "Mommy."

When I went to the hospital to deliver him in August of 1997, I asked for a Caesarian, but my doctor said she didn't believe in it for the comfort of the mother. She said I had to "buck up" and go through labor.

I was kept in labor over 48 hours.

I found out later there were clear signs my baby was in distress. My baby had been suffocating in the womb. Emergency procedures saved his life. But I was told he would never speak or move, and that he probably would not live to the age of 2.

My husband and I hired an attorney because it was the only way to find out what really happened. Until we pursued this in court, we were given the same insurance company run-around.

Jerry will require a lifetime of care, and it will be hard. The insurance company "experts" suggested we only deserved money to cover Jerry's two years of projected life. Today he's seven, and while I can't disclose the terms of the settlement, I can tell you that we would have never been able to get adequate compensation to pay the bills if this amendment was in effect.

Don't give your rights away. Please join me and vote "No" on 35.

Kathy Brooks, mom

(This information furnished by Kathy Brooks.)

Argument in Opposition


Fire Fighters Urge a NO Vote on
Constitutional Amendment 35!

Oregon's firefighters are on the front lines of our communities every day. It is our mission to protect the public's health and safety.

We take our mission seriously and we want Oregonians to know that Constitutional Amendment 35 won't do anything to make Oregonians safer.

Firefighters are constantly reminded of what happens when things go terribly wrong. We know from experience what it is like for families to lose everything, to lose loved ones, to lose their quality of life. We want Oregonians to know that Constitutional Amendment 35 will hurt Oregonians by taking away their rights to pursue justice when faced with losses caused by severe medical negligence.

Instead of limiting our basic rights, we should first look at real solutions:

Firefighters are the first line of defense when protecting Oregon families from tragedy. The right to pursue justice is a protection Oregonians should never vote away.

Oregon Fire Fighters urge Oregonians to protect our rights and vote No on Constitutional Amendment 35.

Bob Livingston
Oregon State Fire Fighters Council

(This information furnished by Bob Livingston, Oregon State Fire Fighters Council.)

Argument in Opposition

An Important Message from United Seniors of Oregon, Gray Panthers, Association of Retired Citizens and the Oregon Alliance of Retired Americans:


We should always be very careful before we allow anyone to take away a basic constitutional right. In the case of Constitutional Amendment 35, seniors should be especially concerned.

That is because Constitutional Amendment 35
unfairly threatens Oregon seniors.

Medical mistakes are a genuine problem – between 700 and 1,800 people die from them every year in Oregon, according to the Patient Safety Commission. Many more suffer injuries that change their life forever.

Constitutional Amendment 35, bankrolled by the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, would put a tight limit on what a victim could receive in what are called "non-economic" damages.

Seniors are the most cruelly targeted by this limit. Non-economic damages are often the only way that older people who do not earn big paychecks can receive adequate compensation for their injury.

Why? Because loss of future income is used to calculate "economic" damages. If you are older, it is assumed that you have little or no future earning power.

The bottom line for seniors:
The effect of Constitutional Amendment 35 is to say if you are a victim of medical malpractice, and you are older,
you just aren't worth as much.

What could be more unfair than that?

The other cruel irony of this limit of one of our constitutional rights is:

It is clear why the insurance and drug companies are
bankrolling this measure.

It is even clearer why Oregon's seniors should firmly reject it.

Unfair to Seniors. Wrong for Oregon.

(This information furnished by Michael Arken, President, Oregon Alliance for Retired Americans; James (Jim) Davis, Oregon Association for Retired Citizens, Portland Gray Panthers, United Seniors of Oregon.)

Argument in Opposition

An important message from John Wish, Economic Professor:


Here in Oregon, we've seen a lot of attempts to amend our Constitution. We've learned we've got to be smart about them and examine the facts beyond the claims of sponsors.

As voters contemplate this Constitutional Amendment, I would stress to them what I've worked hard to teach my students: the importance of independent research and review.

For Constitutional Amendment 35, the data are clear: limiting jury awards do not control insurance premiums for providers or patients.

Jury Limits Don't Provide Rate Relief

According to the leading insurance industry analysis firm Weiss Ratings, for the nineteen states that have enacted jury limits, premiums rose 48.2 percent over the 11 year period from 1991 to 2002. This increase was at a higher rate than states without jury limits.

Doctors Are Not Fleeing Oregon

According to a new study by the nonpartisan Public Citizen, physicians are not fleeing Oregon. Government data from the Oregon Office of Rural Health show the total number of doctors has increased from 2000 to 2004, active rural doctors have increased, and specialists in rural Oregon have increased.

Malpractice Limits Won't Lower Health Costs

There is no statistically significant difference in per capita health care spending between states with and without malpractice caps, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The study finds "even large savings in premiums can have only a small direct impact on health care spending."

Medical Errors Kill Up to 195,000 Patients a Year

A new study by Healthgrades, a leading health care quality rating firm, finds that up to 198,000 people are killed annually from preventable medical error. That means between 700 and 1,800 patients in Oregon die each year from negligence. Amendment 35 does not even address this problem.


(This information furnished by John R. Wish, Ph.D.)

Argument in Opposition

An important message from Erin Brockovich

Don't give your rights away to the insurance lobby.
Vote NO on Constitutional Amendment 35

Four years ago, I wrote to you urging you not to let the insurance industry take away your right to ask a jury for justice when you have been injured. Well, they are at it again.

I know something about what happens to real people when they have to go up against insurance companies and other powerful groups. You may remember the movie about my work on behalf of people whose community was recklessly poisoned. The constitutional right to a trial by jury was the only reason they were able to get justice.

Now, Constitutional Amendment 35 would limit your rights if you have been injured by a reckless or negligent medical mistake. And it is designed to put health care profits ahead of the health and safety of Oregon families.

Who would benefit? An out of control insurance industry.

Insurance rates aren't just high for doctors – they are high for all of us. And there are far more reasonable solutions to the problem than limiting our right to a trial by jury.

The terrible injuries caused by negligent medical errors can tragically change a life forever. Hopefully, it will never happen to you, or someone you love. But it could. Don't limit our greatest protection- the right to trial by jury.


Erin Brockovich

(This information furnished by Erin Brockovich.)

Argument in Opposition

Victim who had penis mistakenly removed urges "NO" vote:

This may be a difficult for you to read.
It is certainly difficult for me to tell.

If you think that Constitutional Amendment 35 can't hurt you, or someone you love, please think again.

My name is Hurshall Ralls. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer of the bladder and prostate. When I went into surgery, they went over different things that might happen. But when I woke up afterwards, I found out that the doctor decided to do something he never talked about to me or my wife.

During the surgery, this doctor made a visual inspection, and decided that the cancer had spread to my penis. So he removed it. He was wrong. There was no cancer. He didn't even test it.

It was devastating – to both me and my wife. I considered suicide. My life will never be the same. The only thing that kept me going was that I could get justice from a jury, and that the doctor who did this terrible thing could be held fully accountable.

But under Amendment 35, you will lose that accountability. The loss of my penis, the damage it has caused me, my wife and our life together is all considered "non-economic." Sometimes even $500,000 for ruining a person's life is just not enough.

What makes me most upset about Amendment 35 is that it considers me the problem, instead of the practitioner of dangerous medicine. Believe me, I'm not the only case like this.

I know that most doctors are good. Laws and rights aren't there to protect us from good people, but bad ones. And if Amendment 35 passes, a lot of that protection will disappear.

Please, learn from what happened to me. Don't let the insurance and pharmaceutical industries blame victims, just to increase their profits. And never, never give up your constitutional rights.


(This information furnished by Hurshall Ralls.)

Argument in Opposition

An important message from Republican Legislator Rep. Bob Jenson:

Let Oregon's New Bipartisan Reform Work. Vote NO on 35.

Last Legislative session, a bi-partisan group of legislators got together to work for meaningful solutions to address rural medical malpractice rates. By working together, we enacted reforms that lower rural doctor's premiums without taking away the rights of victims of grievous medical error and negligence.

This new innovative program just started a few months ago and holds great promise. Let's give our homegrown common-sense reform a chance to work.

Our bi-partisan approach under House Bill 3630:

But Constitutional Amendment 35 would hurt Oregonians instead of giving this program time to work. It's too drastic and it's too early. Constitutional Amendment 35 would:

There are better solutions to the problem of medical negligence and the high insurance rates that are going up for all of us.

But Constitutional Amendment 35 is the wrong approach for Oregon health providers and patients. Instead, let's give our bipartisan approach time to deliver results. And let's not let special interests take away one of most basic, fundamental rights.

Vote no on Constitutional Amendment 35.

(This information furnished by Representative Bob Jenson.)

Argument in Opposition

Urge a "No" vote on this constitutional amendment

As Oregon's leading consumer rights groups, we believe that the solution of high insurance rates shouldn't be to increase the profits of the insurance industry and huge pharmaceutical corporations.

And we don't think that the solution to medical negligence should be to take away the rights of the injured victims.

These are what Constitutional Amendment 35 does. And it's Oregon consumers that will pay the price.

Constitutional Amendment 35: the wrong approach

WILL NOT lower insurance rates. It hasn't in the other states that have taken these rights away from victims.

WILL NOT protect patient rights or patient safety.

There are better solutions:

Open the insurance industry to the public

Instead of punishing victims, accountability for negligent or reckless medicine.

Better Patient information

We urge you to vote "No" on this
unnecessary and dangerous change to the Constitution.

Maureen Kirk, OSPIRG
Jason Reynolds, Oregon Consumer League

(This information furnished by Maureen Kirk, Oregon State Public Interest Research Group; Jason Reynolds, Oregon Consumer League.)

Argument in Opposition

AFT Oregon and the President of
It's Health Care Affiliate, local 5017
Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals
Urges a NO Vote on Constitutional Amendment 35

Protect Patients, Not the Insurance Industry

Nurses and health care professionals work on the frontlines of medicine every day. It's not just a job to us: there is nothing more important than the health, safety and well-being of our patients. We also respect and value the good doctors that we work with.

We believe that high insurance rates are a problem for patients and doctors. But Constitutional Amendment 35 will do nothing to control insurance rates.

The evidence for this is clear: states that have established limits on what a person can receive as compensation for their injuries have not seen reductions in insurance rates for anyone. All these limits do is increase the bottom line for insurance companies and hurt our patients.

We need insurance reform. There are many things we can do to improve patient care and reduce insurance rates. But taking away the rights of people who are the victims of tragic circumstances isn't one of them.

One of the most basic credos of medicine is "First, do no harm." Constitutional Amendment 35 will harm the people we have promised to help.

For the sake of our patients and
the good doctors we work with:


Kathleen Geroux, RN
President, Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals Local 5017

Richard Schwarz,
Executive Director, American Federation of Teachers - Oregon

(This information furnished by Kathy Geroux, President, Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals; Richard Schwarz, American Federation of Teachers-Oregon.)

Argument in Opposition

Health Care Coalition Opposes Drug and Insurance Industry
Campaign to Weaken Patients' Rights

Oregonians for Health Security strongly opposes Constitutional Amendment 35. Our coalition of consumer groups, health organizations, caregivers, seniors and small business owners are working on three main objectives: controlling health care costs, lowering prescription drug prices, and winning coverage Oregonians can count on. This amendment fails to address any of these critical challenges.

Oregonians deserve quality, affordable, and reliable health care. But Constitutional Amendment 35 is not the solution-it will only let pharmaceutical and insurance companies continue to make millions in profits while 511,000 Oregonians remain uninsured.

Who's bankrolling Constitutional Amendment 35?

Those who already have too much control
over our health care.

Read the ballot title: Measure 35 limits the rights of patients who suffer "injuries caused by healthcare provider's negligence and recklessness."

Instead of limiting our rights, we should do more to lower the cost of health care. Improving patient safety and reforming the insurance are reasonable places to start.

The high cost of health care is crippling our economy. Instead of limiting our rights, patients, providers, business, and government should work together to bring down the cost of health care. We need real reform, not insurance and pharmaceutical company attacks on our rights.


(This information furnished by Maribeth Healey, Oregonians for Health Security.)

Argument in Opposition


Constitutional Amendment 35 will do nothing to lower the cost of health care in Oregon.

Constitutional Amendment 35 will not fix the problem of soaring health insurance costs. And, studies show that limiting compensation to victims will do nothing to reduce health insurance premiums.

For our analysis of the impacts of this measure, go to

We don't need to change our justice system; we need to deal with doctors who have a history of malpractice.

We need open public databases that make it easier to identify the small percentage of doctors who are responsible for the majority of malpractice cases. Right now it's easier to see how many mistakes a building contractor has on his record than to find out which doctors have a history of negligence.

There are other reasonable solutions that should be tried to before we limit our constitutional right to justice from a jury.

Insurance companies should be forced to disclose how they set their rates and how little their profits are affected by malpractice cases. We should require insurance companies to go through a public hearing process and get approval from the Insurance Commissioner before they hike rates.

Constitutional Amendment 35 is backed by the pharmaceutical and insurance industries to boost their profits and make it more difficult for working Oregonians to hold them accountable.

Insurance and drug companies already have too much control over our healthcare. Now they're trying to gain more control at our expense. They want to make it harder for the victims of medical malpractice to pursue justice and seek compensation for their losses.

Don't let insurance and pharmaceutical companies take away the right of working families to have their day in court.

We recommend a No vote on Constitutional Amendment 35.

Tim Nesbitt
Oregon AFL-CIO

Brad Witt
Oregon AFL-CIO

(This information furnished by Tim Nesbitt, President, Oregon AFL-CIO.)

Argument in Opposition

Pendleton mom asks:

Before voting on
Constitutional Amendment 35, please read my story.
Because this could happen to your family.

My name is Theresa Booth, and I live in Pendleton, Oregon. I remember the day I found out I was pregnant – I was so excited and happy. I wanted to make sure I did everything right: I took all the tests, went to the doctor and did what he instructed.

The tests showed that my baby was due in December. But the doctor mistakenly set the due date two months ahead of schedule. Later we learned the signs were everywhere that he had made a terrible mistake, and the doctor repeatedly ignored all of them. I didn't go into labor, so he scheduled a C-section. An ultra-sound was done which showed that my baby was nowhere near full-term, but he performed the surgery anyway.

Because Michael was born two months early he has profound birth defects. His lungs weren't fully formed. He has cerebral palsy. He has undergone multiple surgeries. He will never be able to care for himself.

Constitutional Amendment 35 is very simple. It is a measure that would protect the doctor who did this, instead of protecting Michael.

The insurance and pharmaceutical companies behind this measure will tell you, "Oh, don't worry about them. $500,000 is plenty to take care of Michael's pain." I'm glad it is so easy for them to put a price on a lifetime of suffering.

But even $500,000 for forever affecting a family's quality of life sometimes just isn't enough.

But this isn't about money. Amendment 35 will take away the only accountability that will force insurance companies – and yes, the medical profession – to do what it takes to stop the kind of reckless and negligent behavior that destroyed my son's life.

It is too late for Michael. But it's not too late for others. The power is in your hands.


(This information furnished by Theresa Booth.)

Argument in Opposition

The Brain Injury Association of Oregon Opposes
Constitutional Amendment 35:

The Brain Injury Association represents Oregonians who have suffered a traumatic brain injury and their families.

Our members strongly oppose this constitutional amendment because it asks us to give up our rights in exchange for vague promises about future cost reduction.

Jury Limits Hurt Victims

The lifetime cost of care for a survivor of a severe brain injury can easily exceed $5 million. And this does not include lost earnings of the survivor or the value of the time and foregone earnings of family members who care for a person with brain injury. Nor does it take into account the devastation that severe brain injury cases bring to a family's quality of life.

Put yourself in the victim's place. If your life had been catastrophically changed by the action of a health care provider who is negligent or reckless, how would you feel about a "one size fits all" limit on damages? This is what this constitutional amendment would permit.

Trust Juries Not Insurance Companies

Too often, survivors of a brain injury need to recover damages through our civil justice system in order to pay for rehabilitation and long-term care. All these people ask is that their case be judged fairly, based on evidence and facts. All they ask is that a jury sort out the critical decisions for care. These decisions should not be left to insurance companies and HMOs.

The Brain Injury Association of Oregon believes judges and juries are much better equipped than private insurance companies to render justice.

Let's leave our constitution alone. Vote no on constitutional amendment 35 and protect Oregon's Bill of Rights.

Kristi Schaefer RN
Past President, Brain Injury Association of Oregon

(This information furnished by Kristi Schaefer, RN, Past President, Brain Injury Association of Oregon.)

Argument in Opposition

An Important Message from Former Supreme Court Justice Betty Roberts:

Protect Case-by-Case Justice.
Vote NO on Constitutional Amendment 35

Our Constitution states, "In all civil cases the right of Trial by Jury shall remain inviolate."

When our nation was founded, the right to jury trial was considered fundamental to American liberty. The Bill of Rights guarantees that Congress cannot interfere with the common law right to jury trial. The Oregon legislature cannot interfere with that right. But this Amendment to our Constitution would limit that basic, fundamental right.

When Oregonians serve on juries, we decide disputes based on the specific facts of each case. In my experience on the Oregon Supreme Court, Oregon juries take their job seriously. Oregon juries act generally with fairness and common sense. But Constitutional Amendment 35 seeks to take power away from juries; that's a radical break from Oregon's heritage and tradition.

This Constitutional Amendment would undermine Oregonian's long-standing traditions of justice and individual responsibility by setting arbitrary, pre-determined limits designed not for fairness, but to protect medical industry profits.

Who should we trust with justice: independent Oregonians serving on juries, or a few negligent health providers who would limit their own responsibility and put profits ahead of the health and safety of Oregon patients? There is no need to change Oregon's Constitution in such a drastic manner.

We need to protect case-by-case justice.

Please vote "No" on Constitutional Amendment 35.

(This information furnished by Former Supreme Court Justice Betty Roberts.)

Argument in Opposition


The cost of healthcare and prescription drugs have skyrocketed in Oregon, but Constitutional Amendment 35 will do nothing to lower the cost of health care.

So why would the big drug companies, HMOs, and insurance companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to pass Constitutional Amendment 35 in Oregon?

Constitutional Amendment 35 protects the profits of health care providers. And Amendment 35 limits the ability for working women and stay-at-home moms to hold health care providers accountable for their mistakes.

It's unfair to let insurance and drug companies predetermine a compensation limit to victims who've been terribly injured without knowing the specific facts of an individual case.

What medical negligence means to women:

Sometimes even $500,000 for ruining a person's life is just not enough.

By arbitrarily limiting "non-economic" damages- or "quality of life" money- this measure unfairly hits those like stay-at-home moms, who might not earn big paychecks, but still contribute to society.

Being injured unnecessarily is hard enough. Being told you just aren't worth as much is just not fair.

Constitutional Amendment 35 is the wrong solution and would do nothing to improve our safety or address the very real problem of medical malpractice.

Insurance Companies already have too much power over our health; please vote no on Constitutional Amendment 35 and protect our health and our access to justice.

Governor Barbara Roberts

Laura Bridges
Chair, NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon

(This information furnished by Governor Barbara Roberts, Laura Bridges, President, NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon.)

Argument in Opposition

Health Care Industry Lobbyists Admit:
Jury Limits Won't Lower Insurance Premiums

Some campaigns will promise just about anything to change our Constitution. The insurance and drug companies behind this amendment are no exception.

But when proponents go "on the record," the story becomes clearer. But don't take our word for it, hear what jury limits advocates say themselves:

"We wouldn't tell you or anyone that the reason to pass tort reform would be to reduce insurance rates."

-Sherman Joyce, American Tort Reform Association, President. Liability Week, July 19, 1999.

"I don't think we would argue that the premiums are likely to go down. We believe it will have the effect of reducing the increases in the future. And one of the reasons the premiums won't go down is that even if noneconomic damages are capped, the losses for economic loss, medical expenses, for example, are still in this current environment escalating at, medical inflation is running in the double digits. I forget exactly what it was last year. So even if you were to cap noneconomic damages, the economic damages will still cause acceleration in the premiums. So it would not go down, I want to clarify if I misspoke and said I thought the premiums would go down."

-Cliff Webster, representing the Washington State Medical Association & Chairman of the Washington Liability Reform Coalition, testifying before the Washington State Legislature, House Judiciary Committee, Feb. 21, 2003.

"[M]any tort reform advocates do not contend that restricting litigation will lower insurance rates, and I've never said that in 30 years."

-Victor Schwartz, General Counsel of the American Tort Reform Association, as quoted in "Tort Reforms Don't Cut Liability Rates, Study Says," published in Business Insurance, July 19, 1999.

(This information furnished by Charlie Burr, Coalition for Real Insurance Reform.)

Argument in Opposition

Pick common sense over false promises of savings
from Insurance Industry

Laws that restrict the rights of injured consumers to go to court do not produce lower insurance costs or rates, and insurance companies that claim they do are severely misleading the public.

The insurance industry claims that enactment of Constitutional Amendment 35 will cause insurance rates to stabilize and even fall.

So the question is, have insurance rates dropped in states that have enacted "tort reforms?" Does enactment of "tort reform" lead to lower insurance rates?

The answer is unequivocally no, according to a report released by our organization, Premium Deceit -- the Failure of "Tort Reform" to Cut Insurance Prices.

The study finds without question that laws that restrict injured consumers' rights to go to court have failed to cut insurance costs or rates.

The report found, "Despite years of claims by insurance companies that rates would go down following enactment of tort reform, we found that tort law limits enacted since the mid-1980s have not lowered insurance rates in the ensuing years. States with little or no tort law restrictions have experienced approximately the same changes in insurance rates as those states that have enacted severe restrictions on victims' rights."

In our history, there has probably never been anything like the current corporate assault on our civil jury system. Over the last 20 years, the nation's largest businesses have been advancing a legislative agenda to limit their liability for causing injuries. Now they are out to change Oregon's Constitution at the expense of your Bill of Rights.

Vote NO on Constitutional Amendment 35.

Joanne Doroshow
Executive Director, Center for Justice and Democracy
Co-Author, Premium Deceit

(This information furnished by Joanne Doroshow, Center for Justice and Democracy.)

Argument in Opposition

Oregon's Attorney General Urges Voters to
Protect Our Constitutional Jury Rights

As your Attorney General, I have worked hard to protect Oregon consumers from anti-competitive and deceptive conduct and to ensure access for all to civil justice.

I believe we can work for a sound health care system for providers and patients without amending our Oregon Constitution to limit Oregonians' right to a jury trial in cases of medical negligence. Constitutional Amendment 35 would make it more difficult for Oregonians to have our day in court and would limit Oregonians' right to case-by-case justice.

Our jury system works. Oregonians are fundamentally fair people and can be trusted with the decisions we ask them to make as jurors. And Oregonians harmed by negligence, whatever its source, should always have complete and open access to our justice system. Each case should be decided on its individual merits by an impartial jury, not by an arbitrary, pre-determined limit.

When our nation was founded, the right to jury trial was considered fundamental to American liberty.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "The wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes has been devoted to the attainment of trial by jury."

And the founding fathers were deeply suspicious of efforts to take away this basic, fundamental right.

"Trial by jury is the best appendage of freedom. Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect anyone who approaches that jewel." -Patrick Henry, 1788

Once we vote away that "appendage of freedom" even in part, it will be hard to restore it.

We should protect our right to a complete, impartial jury trial. Please join me in voting no on Constitutional Amendment 35.

— Attorney General Hardy Myers

(This information furnished by Attorney General Hardy Myers.)

Argument in Opposition

No on Measure 35

Insurance companies and HMOs already have too much power and influence over the medical care we receive. But now they want more.

Read the ballot title: Measure 35 denies rights to those who suffer "patient injuries caused by healthcare provider's negligence and recklessness."

Health care costs are out of control. But lawsuits filed by patients injured due to negligence and recklessness contribute only 1/3 of 1% to overall health care costs.

We need to get health care costs under control. Vote NO on 35.

SEIU: Leading the fight
For lower health care costs
For Oregon workers and taxpayers.

SEIU helped lead the fight to establish a prescription drug purchasing pool for Oregon. The pool needs to be broadened.

Our representatives on the Public Employees' Benefit Board have helped to keep state worker health care costs below the state average.

Our in-home caregivers care for the elderly and disabled in their own homes. This care saves taxpayers' dollars and allows Oregon seniors to live independently at home with dignity.

Our nursing home workers successfully lobbied for more federal funding for long-term care so that the medically frail would not be shut out of skilled nursing facilities.

Health care costs won't decrease if Measure 35 passes. Working families in states that have adopted similar laws still suffer from health care hyperinflation.

Some Oregonians want to blame the victims of out-of-control health care costs and make workers pay more for premiums, co-pays, and deductibles. They want to limit our right to protect ourselves from unscrupulous healthcare providers.

Vote NO on Measure 35.
Join SEIU in finding real solutions
to rising health care costs.

(This information furnished by Arthur Towers, Service Employees International Union Local 503, OPEU.)