quick facts

Oregon has declined to recognize a right to damages for constitutional violations, relying in part on the fact that the legislature never waived sovereign immunity for such claims. 1

The Oregon Tort Claims Act (“OTCA”) provides that each public body is liable for its torts and those of its officers, employees, and agents acting within the scope of their employment or duties. 2 The statute provides a limit on damages for claims against the government and its employees for actions within the scope of employment. 3 Oregon’s damages limits are relatively generous and include adjustment for changes in the cost of living. 4

Public employees acting within the scope of employment are subject to the same liabilities and immunities as government entities. 5 Both employees and entities are liable for intentional torts and immune from claims based upon the performance of a discretionary function; claims arising out of any “riot, civil commotion, or mob action”; and several other claims. 6 However, when a claim brought against a government employee alleges damages below the OTCA cap, the governing body will be substituted as the defendant. 7 Claims that allege damages above the cap can be brought against employees whether or not the governing body is also named as a defendant. 8 In reality, government employees will rarely have to personally pay damages, as employees must be defended and indemnified unless their actions constituted “malfeasance in office or willful or wanton neglect of duty.” 9