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Proving damages in a wrongful death claim

There are generally two phases to every trial involving the loss of a loved one in which it is alleged that one or more parties' actions -- or inaction -- caused or contributed to that death. First, An Oregon court will determine liability of the defendants in the wrongful death claim. If that is established by appropriate evidence, it will then be necessary to prove the damages sought by the plaintiffs.

For example, in May 2013 a 26-year-old woman just beginning her medical career died of a brain hemorrhage. Her family filed a lawsuit alleging that the physicians attending to her should have found a blood clot that led to her death. As the trial approaches, the plaintiffs announced that they wanted the chief executive officer and president of the hospital system they are suing to testify on their behalf regarding the victim's potential earnings had she lived.

Over the objections of the defendants, the judge will allow the plaintiffs to call him as a witness. According to sources, prior to her death, the victim was expected to follow a similar career path. Therefore, the jury will hear testimony from the hospital executive along with other evidence substantiating the damages sought by the plaintiffs.

The jury will then make the determination as to what it considers to be reasonable damages in light of the evidence. The same procedures and types of evidence would be required in an Oregon wrongful death claim filed under similar circumstances. The court will then consider the evidence presented and make a determination regarding an award of damages. If multiple defendants were found liable, the damages apportioned among them depending on each defendant's percentage of liability.

Source: citizensvoice.com, "Geisinger executive must testify in malpractice suit", James Halpin, Feb. 24, 2016

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