Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Plaintiff Emily Hodges alleged she was injured when the apartment balcony on which she and others were standing collapsed. Plaintiff alleged she suffered injuries to her spine, feet, right leg and hip, and right shoulder, for which she sought $325,000 in economic damages for past and future medical expenses and impaired earning capacity. She also sought $1,000,000 in noneconomic damages. Defendants Oak Tree Realtors, Inc., trustees of a family trust, and several individuals, deposed plaintiff and sought information about plaintiff’s discussions with her treating medical providers relating to her injuries. Plaintiff’s lawyer instructed her not to answer those questions, asserting the physician-patient privilege and that her answers would disclose communications she had had with her treating doctor. Defendants moved to compel answers to their questions regarding her discussions with treating doctors, contending that plaintiff’s communications with them were not protected by the physician-patient privilege. Accepting defendants’ argument that the communications fell within the exception in OEC 504-1(4)(b), the trial court ordered plaintiff to testify regarding communications with her treating doctor. Plaintiff then petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court for a peremptory writ of mandamus, seeking to have the trial court’s order vacated. The Supreme Court found the limitation in OEC 504-1(4)(b) applied only when the physical examination occurred under the authority provided in ORCP 44 and that, on this record, the limitation on the physician-patient privilege did not apply. Accordingly, the Court granted a peremptory writ of mandamus. View "Hodges v. Oak Tree Realtors, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Oregon Supreme Court previously denied employer Shearer's Foods' petition for review in this workers’ compensation case, but addressed claimant William Hoffnagle's petition for an award of attorney fees for time that his counsel spent in response to employer’s unsuccessful petition for review. Employer objected that the Supreme Court lacked authority to award fees and also objects to the amount of requested fee. Although the Supreme Court often resolved attorney fee petitions by order rather than written opinion, employer’s objection to the Supreme Court's authority to award fees presented a legal issue that was appropriately resolved by opinion. Employer insisted the Oregon legislature had not authorized an award of fees for work that a claimant’s attorney performs in response to an unsuccessful petition for review; employer did not dispute that, after a series of amendments, ORS 656.386 specified a claimant who prevails against a denial was entitled to an award of attorney fees for work performed at every other stage of the case, including in the Supreme Court, if the Supreme Court addressed the merits of the case. "Employer offers no reason why the legislature would have intentionally created that one carve-out to what is otherwise a comprehensive authorization of fees when a claimant relies on counsel to finally prevail against the denial of a claim. Indeed, such a carve- out would be incompatible with what we have described as 'a broad statement of a legislative policy' reflected in ORS 656.386, 'that prevailing claimants’ attorneys shall receive reasonable compensation for their representation.'" The petition for attorney fees was allowed. Claimant was awarded $2,200 as attorney fees on review. View "Shearer's Foods v. Hoffnagle" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals certified a question of Oregon law to the Oregon Supreme Court. At issue is the correct interpretation of ORS 30.905(2), which placed limits on the time-frame for initiating a product liability civil action for personal injury or property damage. Oregon resident Aline Miller owned a Ford Escape, which was manufactured in June 2001 in the State of Missouri. The Escape was first sold to a consumer in September 2001. In May 2012, the Escape caught fire while parked in Miller’s garage, allegedly due to a faulty sensor in the engine compartment. The fire spread from Miller’s garage to her home, causing significant property damage. Miller also fractured her heel as she fled the fire. Oregon’s statute of repose for product liability actions provides that an action “must be commenced before the later of *** [t]en years after the date on which the product was first purchased *** or *** [t]he expiration of any statute of repose for an equivalent civil action in the state in which the product was manufactured.” ORS 30.905(2). The certified question asked if the state of manufacture had no statute of repose for actions equivalent to an Oregon product liability action, was a product liability action in Oregon subject to any statute of repose? The Oregon Court answered in the negative: under ORS 30.905(2), when an Oregon product liability action involves a product that was manufactured in a state that has no statute of repose for an equivalent civil action, then the action in Oregon also was not subject to a statute of repose. View "Miller v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Kerry and Scott Tomlinson (parents) and their son, T, brought separate negligence claims against defendants Mary K. Wagner, MD., Metropolitan Pediatrics, LLC, and Legacy Emanuel Hospital & Health Center. In their respective claims, plaintiffs alleged that defendants provided medical services to the parents’ older son, M, failed to timely diagnose M’s genetic disorder, and failed to inform the parents of that disorder. They further alleged that, “[h]ad defendants, and each of them, timely diagnosed [M’s] DMD, [the parents] would not have produced another child suffering from [DMD].” The trial court entered a judgment dismissing the complaint on the ground that neither the parents nor T were patients of defendants and, therefore, the court reasoned, defendants owed no obligation of professional care toward them. The Court of Appeals reversed that judgment as to the parents but affirmed as to T. The Oregon Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals, and reversed in part and affirmed in part the trial court judgment dismissing this action. Under the parents’ theory of relief, the relevant injury was not the resulting life, but the negligent deprivation of information that was important to the parents’ protected interest in making informed reproductive choices. T’s claim necessarily depended on the premise that T had a legally protected interest in not being born, rather than risk being born with DMD. "[T]he doctrinal implications of recognizing T’s right to recover such damages would be significant." The Court concluded the factual allegations were sufficient as to the parents' claim. With respect to T's claims, however, the Court determined the "threshold difficulty with T’s argument is that it puts the damages cart before the liability horse; that is, T’s argument blurs the line between the identification of a cognizable injury and the determination of damages resulting from the injury. . . based on the facts that T alleges, defendants could not have caused T a physical harm." View "Tomlinson v. Metropolitan Pediatrics, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Kerry and Scott Tomlinson (parents) and their son, T, brought separate negligence claims against defendants Mary K. Wagner, MD., Metropolitan Pediatrics, LLC, and Legacy Emanuel Hospital & Health Center. In their respective claims, plaintiffs alleged that defendants provided medical services to the parents’ older son, M, failed to timely diagnose M’s genetic disorder, and failed to inform the parents of that disorder. They further alleged that, “[h]ad defendants, and each of them, timely diagnosed [M’s] DMD, [the parents] would not have produced another child suffering from [DMD].” The trial court entered a judgment dismissing the complaint on the ground that neither the parents nor T were patients of defendants and, therefore, the court reasoned, defendants owed no obligation of professional care toward them. The Court of Appeals reversed that judgment as to the parents but affirmed as to T. The Oregon Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals, and reversed in part and affirmed in part the trial court judgment dismissing this action. Under the parents’ theory of relief, the relevant injury was not the resulting life, but the negligent deprivation of information that was important to the parents’ protected interest in making informed reproductive choices. T’s claim necessarily depended on the premise that T had a legally protected interest in not being born, rather than risk being born with DMD. "[T]he doctrinal implications of recognizing T’s right to recover such damages would be significant." The Court concluded the factual allegations were sufficient as to the parents' claim. With respect to T's claims, however, the Court determined the "threshold difficulty with T’s argument is that it puts the damages cart before the liability horse; that is, T’s argument blurs the line between the identification of a cognizable injury and the determination of damages resulting from the injury. . . based on the facts that T alleges, defendants could not have caused T a physical harm." View "Tomlinson v. Metropolitan Pediatrics, LLC" on Justia Law