Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court
Caren v. Providence Health System Oregon
The dispute in this workers’ compensation case arises out of a question relating to overlapping statutory provisions that control the determination of permanent partial disability. ORS 656.214 obligated employers to provide compensation for a worker’s permanent impairment, meaning “loss of use or function” that is “due to the compensable industrial injury.” But ORS 656.005(7)(a)(B) limited the employer’s liability when the compensable injury combines with a qualifying “preexisting condition” to “cause or prolong” the injured worker’s’ disability or need for medical treatment, unless the compensable injury is the “major contributing cause” of the “combined condition.” The question presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review centered on whether the legislature intended an employer would obtain the same limited liability when the employer did not follow the process that the legislature created for estimating a reduced amount of permanent impairment following the denial of a “combined condition.” The Supreme Court concluded the legislature intended that injured workers would be fully compensated for new impairment if it was due in material part to the compensable injury, except where an employer has made use of the statutory process for reducing liability after issuing a combined condition denial. View "Caren v. Providence Health System Oregon" on Justia Law
Pilling v. Travelers Ins. Co.
Claimant Mark Pilling filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits which insurer Travelers Insurance denied. An administrative law judge (ALJ) reversed insurer’s denial, but the Workers’ Compensation Board reversed the ALJ’s order and reinstated insurer’s denial on the ground that claimant was a nonsubject worker because he was a partner in the business for which he worked and he had not applied for coverage as a nonsubject worker. The Court of Appeals affirmed the board’s order. On claimant’s petition, the Oregon Supreme Court granted certiorari review and concluded that, even assuming claimant was a nonsubject worker, he was entitled to coverage because the business for which he worked made a specific written application for workers’ compensation coverage for him, which insurer accepted. Therefore, the Court reversed the decisions of the Court of Appeals and the Workers’ Compensation Board and remanded to the board for further proceedings. View "Pilling v. Travelers Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Oregon v. Gutierrez-Medina
Defendant Jorge Gutierrez-Medina was driving under the influence of intoxicants late at night when he struck another person who had walked onto the road in a dark area not marked for pedestrians. Defendant pled guilty to one count DUI, and one count of third-degree assault, but resisted the State’s request that he pay restitution for the victim’s full medical bills. Defendant urged the trial court to apply the civil doctrine of comparative fault to reduce the amount of restitution. The trial court refused defendant’s request and ordered him to pay the State’s requested restitution. The Oregon Supreme Court concurred with the outcome of the Court of Appeals’ review, only on different grounds. The Supreme Court concluded defendant’s conviction for third-degree assault established he was aware he was using a deadly or dangerous weapon in a manner that created a substantial risk of serious harm, and he consciously disregarded that risk. Therefore, defendant’s assault conviction established he acted with a culpable mental state for which comparative fault would not be available in a civil action. The Supreme Court also declined to address the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that ORS 137.106 precluded trial courts from reducing the amount of restitution when the victim was partly to blame for his injury. View "Oregon v. Gutierrez-Medina" on Justia Law
Garcia-Solis v. Farmers Ins. Co.
Claimant Elvia Garcia-Solis was injured in a work-related accident. Farmers Insurance Company and Yeaun Corporation (collectively, “Insurer”) accepted a workers’ compensation claim and certain specified medical conditions associated with the accident. Because claimant also showed psychological symptoms, her doctor recommended a psychological referral to diagnose her for possible post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Insurer argued, and the Court of Appeals agreed, that the cost of the psychological referral was not covered by workers’ compensation because claimant had failed to prove that it was related to any of the medical conditions that insurer had accepted. The Oregon Supreme Court reversed both the Court of Appeals and the Workers’ Compensation Board: “’injury’ means work accident is context-specific to exactly two uses in the first and second sentences of ORS 656.245(1)(a). It does not apply to the second use in the first sentence of ORS 656.245(1)(a). We do not decide or suggest that it applies to any other statute in the workers’ compensation system.” View "Garcia-Solis v. Farmers Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Sheldon v. US Bank
Claimant Catherine Sheldon injured her shoulder after falling in the lobby of the office building where she worked. Claimant contended she suffered a compensable injury that arose out of employment because her fall was unexplained and occurred at work. Employer, US Bank, contended the injury was not unexplained because claimant failed to eliminate idiopathic factors related to her personal medical conditions that might have caused her fall. The Workers’ Compensation Board (the board) concluded claimant failed to establish that her fall was unexplained. The Court of Appeals held that the board applied the wrong standard, vacated the board’s decision, and remanded the case to the board to apply the standard in the manner directed by that court. Although the Oregon Supreme Court disagreed with the standard expressed by the Court of Appeals, it nevertheless reached the same result, therefore affirming the Court of Appeals, vacating the board’s decision, and remanding the case to the board. View "Sheldon v. US Bank" on Justia Law
Gadalean v. SAIF
Claimant Cozmin Gadalean, a commercial truck driver, was sent on a supervised delivery by and for employer as a pre-employment drive test. He was injured when he fell from employer’s truck. The Workers’ Compensation Board denied claimant coverage, concluding that he did not qualify as a worker at the time of the injury. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Oregon’s minimum wage laws would have entitled claimant to be paid for the delivery and that, therefore, he was a worker within the meaning of the workers’ compensation statute. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals erred, and affirmed the board’s denial of coverage. View "Gadalean v. SAIF" on Justia Law
Sloan v. Providence Health System-Oregon
Acting as the personal representative of his father’s estate, plaintiff Dennis Sloan brought a medical negligence action against defendants Providence Health System-Oregon and Apogee Medical Group, P.C. Plaintiff claimed defendants were negligent in their care of plaintiff’s father because they failed to diagnose and treat the father's rib fractures and internal bleeding. On November 3, the father, then 85 years old, came to Providence’s hospital after falling at home and was initially treated at the emergency room. He was later admitted to the hospital, where he was treated by Apogee’s doctors. On November 7, Apogee’s doctors discharged Sloan to a skilled nursing facility, Three Fountains. On November 17, Sloan’s condition worsened significantly. Two days later, Three Fountains returned Sloan to the hospital. At the hospital, Sloan was found to have multiple displaced rib fractures and bleeding in his right chest cavity, which had caused his right lung to collapse. Later that same day, Sloan died of respiratory failure due to the bleeding in his chest cavity and the collapse of his lung. Plaintiff claimed the trial court erred in refusing to give his requested jury instruction concerning a tortfeasor’s liability for the subsequent conduct of another. The Court of Appeals agreed and reversed the trial court’s judgment in part and remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial. On defendant’s petition, the Oregon Supreme Court granted review of the appellate court's judgment, and finding no reversible error, affirmed the Court of Appeals decision, which reversed the trial court’s judgment in part. The case was remanded for a new trial. View "Sloan v. Providence Health System-Oregon" on Justia Law
Vasquez v. Double Press Mfg., Inc.
Defendant Double Press Manufacturing, Inc. petitioned for review of a Court of Appeals decision affirming a trial court judgment against defendant that included an award of noneconomic damages to plaintiff Zeferino Vasquez, in the amount of $4,860,000. In the course of his employment with a feed dealer, plaintiff was responsible for operating and cleaning a machine used in hay baling. One day in 2010, plaintiff did not follow the machine's shut-down procedure; to remove jammed material, plaintiff climbed into an area of the machine where a hydraulic ram was located. The machine, still in automatic mode, pinched plaintiff between a hydraulic ram and the frame of the machine, crushing his spine and causing other injuries. As a result of those injuries, plaintiff was rendered paraplegic. Defendant contended the Court of Appeals erred in concluding that the remedy clause of Article I, section 10, of the Oregon Constitution precluded a reduction of plaintiff’s noneconomic damages to $500,000 in accordance with the statutory damages cap set out in ORS 31.710(1). Plaintiff requested review of another aspect of the decision, arguing that the Court of Appeals erroneously rejected his statutory argument that his claim was exempt from the damages cap. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed with plaintiff, and affirmed the judgment of the trial court and the decision of the Court of Appeals, but on different grounds, namely, that plaintiff’s claim fell within a statutory exception to the damages cap for “claims subject to * * * ORS chapter 656.” View "Vasquez v. Double Press Mfg., Inc." on Justia Law
Schutz v. La Costita III, Inc.
In the three months plaintiff Ashley Schutz worked for Defendant O’Brien Constructors and project manager Keely O’Brien, she had declined multiple invitations by Keely O’Brien to join him and other coworkers for drinks after work. Plaintiff nevertheless felt pressured to accept an invitation so that she would advance in the firm. Plaintiff sued her employer and its agent, alleging that she had been seriously injured in an auto accident after she was pressured to attend a work-related event where she had become intoxicated. The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendants, concluding that they were entitled to statutory immunity under ORS 471.565(1) and that that grant of immunity did not violate the remedy clause of Article I, section 10, of the Oregon Constitution. The Court of Appeals disagreed with the trial court’s remedy clause analysis and reversed. On review, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded defendants were not entitled to statutory immunity under ORS 471.565(1). The Court of Appeals’ judgment was vacated, the trial court reversed, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Schutz v. La Costita III, Inc." on Justia Law
J. M. v. Oregon Youth Authority
Sixteen years after he had been sexually abused by an Oregon Youth Authority (OYA) employee, plaintiff filed suit; the issue on review was plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 claim against defendant Gary Lawhead, former superintendent of the OYA facility where the abuse had occurred. Plaintiff alleged defendant had violated his federal constitutional rights through deliberate indifference to the risk that the OYA employee would sexually abuse youths housed at the facility. The trial court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s section 1983 claim on the basis that the claim accrued at the time of the abuse in 1998 and, consequently, was untimely. The Court of Appeals reversed, relying on T. R. v. Boy Scouts of America, 181 P3d 758, cert den, 555 US 825 (2008). The Oregon Supreme Court allowed defendant’s petition for review to address when plaintiff’s cause of action under section 1983 accrued. Applying federal law, the Court held that an action under section 1983 accrues when a plaintiff knows or reasonably should know of the injury and the defendant’s role in causing the injury. Therefore, the trial court erred by dismissing plaintiff’s claim in reliance on the principle that a section 1983 claim accrues when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury alone, which, in this case, it determined was necessarily when the abuse occurred. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals, reversed the trial court's judgment, and remanded the case to the trial court to reconsider its summary judgment decision under the correct accrual standard. View "J. M. v. Oregon Youth Authority" on Justia Law