Jury says OHSU must give boy's family $12 million - but will it have to?

PORTLAND, Ore. - A Multnomah County jury awarded $12 million to the family of a boy whose liver was damaged during an operation at OHSU.

Whether the Klamath Falls family will actually get the money is another matter.

"They are claiming they've paid $3 million and that's all they're going to pay," said Lori Horton, the boy's mother.

Nobody's disputing that Tyson Horton's surgery went wrong in 2009.

When doctors went in to remove a lump, they accidentally cut some blood vessels. That left Tyson requiring a lifetime of care.

OHSU admitted its mistake immediately, and willingly handed over a check for $3 million in 2011.

That's where the problem with the verdict comes into play.

The state mandated a cap of $3 million for lawsuits against OHSU, believing that would allow room for reasonable awards for anybody who sued the teaching hospital.

"The payment is the highest amount payable within the tort cap set by the 2009 legislation," said Jodi Coombs of Doernbecher Children's Hospital. "Our hope is that this helped ease the family's burden right away and without making them wait until a lengthy court proceeding."

But the family of 4-year-old Tyson still owes $2.5 million in medical bills for surgeries done elsewhere to repair his liver. He received a partial transplant from his mother.

The appeals process could wind up taking the state's cap on tort claims against OHSU all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court. It could also take two to five years to get resolved.

Lori Horton disputes the cap of $3 million.

"If I had taken Tyson to any other hospital in Portland: Legacy, Providence, anything like that, we would not be having this discussion about a cap," she said.

As far as Tyson's prognosis, things are looking up.

"Right now he's doing really well and we cherish every day because it could change any minute," Lori Horton said.