Oregon Supreme Court Reduces Jury Award Against Landlord

The Oregon Supreme Court has reduced a $20 million jury award against a landlord, calling it a “grossly unfair” amount of money,

The Oregon Supreme Court has reduced a $20 million jury award against a landlord, calling it a “grossly unfair” amount of money, according to reports.

According to the lawsuit, a tenant, Robert Trebelhorn, hurt his knee when his leg punched through a walkway that his apartment complex had allowed to fall into disrepair.

While Trebelhorn did undergo surgery and suffered prolonged knee pain, the court said penalizing the large corporation that owns the complex to the tune of $20 million was “grossly excessive,” Oregon Live reported.

The court reduced the jury award against the landlord to about $5.3 million in punitive damages, plus about $300,000 in compensatory damages.

Under Oregon law, only 30 percent of punitive damages “is payable to the prevailing party,” in this case Trebelhorn. The rest goes to state criminal victims’ assistance funds.

The Oregon Supreme Court has stated opposition before to what the court sees as excessive punitive damages awarded by juries.

The court has previously stated that punitive damages that so greatly dwarf a plaintiff’s compensatory damages should be reserved for “all but the most exceptional of cases,” Oregon Live reported.

Prime Wimbledon and Prime Administration own and manage the Wimbledon Square apartments, located north of Reed College in Southeast Portland.

Matthew Casey, an attorney for the apartments, argued during the trial in 2018 that there was no “evil intent” by the complex’s owners to hurt people.

“We agree that this event happened,” Casey said at the time. “We’re sorry that it happened, and we’re taking responsibility that it happened.”

In its ruling the court said that the apartment complex “was aware that the walkway and other structures at the complex had deteriorated to the point that required ‘life-safety’ repairs, but they had chosen not to repair the walkway” on which Trebelhorn was injured.

According to court documents, on the night of the incident at the apartment Trebelhorn was walking across the second-story concrete walkway connecting his apartment building to a parking structure when a portion of the concrete gave way under his right foot, creating a hole in the walkway of nine inches by 18 inches. His right leg dropped into the hole up to his thigh and he landed in a sitting position on the walkway.

Lower courts had previously reduced the award, but Trebelhorn’s lawyers appealed to the state supreme court to reinstate the full $20 million amount.

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