Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court
Sherman v. Dept. of Human Services
Plaintiff Janae Sherman brought child abuse claims against the Oregon Department of Human Services (defendant), alleging that it had negligently failed to protect her from abuse while she was in foster care. Defendant moved to dismiss, claiming it was immune from liability under a provision of the Oregon Tort Claims Act, ORS 30.265(6)(d). Defendant argued that plaintiff’s claims were barred by the provisions of ORS 12.115, a statute of ultimate repose for negligent injury claims. The trial court agreed with defendant, rejecting plaintiff’s argument that ORS 12.117, and not ORS 12.115, applied to child abuse claims and did not bar plaintiff’s claims. The Court of Appeals reversed. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded ORS 12.117 applied to child abuse claims and that ORS 30.265(6)(d) did not provide defendant with immunity. View "Sherman v. Dept. of Human Services" on Justia Law
Simi v. LTI Inc. – Lynden Inc.
In a workers’ compensation case, the issue presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review centered on the scope of an employer’s obligation under ORS 656.262(7)(c) to reopen a closed claim for processing if a “condition is found compensable after claim closure.” The closed claim at issue here was claimant Randy Simi's accepted right rotator cuff tear, and the conditions giving rise to the dispute were supraspinatus and infraspinatus tendon tears, which claimant asked employer to accept as “new or omitted” conditions. Employer issued a denial specifying that the conditions were not compensable, but, without withdrawing the denial, employer later took the position that the tendon tears were “encompassed” within the originally accepted rotator cuff tear. That change of position caused an administrative law judge (ALJ) to determine that the tendon conditions were compensable and to set aside employer’s denial. According to claimant, that ALJ order triggered employer’s obligation under ORS 656.262(7)(c) to reopen the claim. Employer contended, however, that the legislature did not require reopening if the compensable condition at issue was “encompassed within” the already-accepted conditions, even if the employer also had denied that the condition was compensable. A majority of the Workers’ Compensation Board and a majority of the Court of Appeals panel agreed with employer, and the Supreme Court allowed review to consider this disputed question of statutory interpretation. Based on its examination of the statutory text and context, the Supreme Court concluded the legislature intended employers to reopen compensable claims for processing when a compensability denial was set aside after claim closure, including under the circumstances of this case. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals' decision was reversed. View "Simi v. LTI Inc. - Lynden Inc." on Justia Law
Wright v. Turner
Plaintiff was a passenger in a truck driven by Lorenz. The vehicles were traveling on an interstate when it began to hail and rain. A sedan ahead of the truck spun out of control and collided with the front of the truck. The passengers of the sedan required medical assistance; a third vehicle struck the back of the truck, pushing the truck into the sedan. Plaintiff was severely injured. Plaintiff filed a personal injury claim for damages, alleging the drivers of the vehicles, John Turner and Sherri Oliver, had been negligent and that the negligence of each had caused her injuries and damages. She also alleged that Turner and Oliver were underinsured and that, as a result, she was entitled to UIM benefits from her own insurance company, defendant Mutual of Enumclaw Insurance. Eventually, plaintiff settled with Turner and Oliver for a total of $175,000, and the case was dismissed as to them. This case was the second appeal in a dispute between Plaintiff and her insurance company over the limits of her Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage. Plaintiff’s policy included a limit of $500,000 for damages “resulting from any one automobile accident.” In the first trial in this case, the jury found that plaintiff’s injuries resulted in damages of $979,540. In the second trial, the jury found that plaintiff was injured, not in one, but in two, separate “accidents,” and that it could not “separate the cause” of plaintiff’s injuries between those two accidents. Consequently, the trial court awarded plaintiff the full measure of her damages, minus offsets. On appeal, the insurance company argued the trial court had erred in its instructions to the jury and should have required the jury to apportion plaintiff’s damages between the two accidents. The Court of Appeals agreed with the company and reversed. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the trial correctly instructed the jury it could find, as a matter of fact, the number of accidents that occurred and whether the cause of plaintiff's injuries could be separated between them. View "Wright v. Turner" on Justia Law
Arvidson v. Liberty Northwest Ins. Corp.
After claimant Danny Arvidson received an award of permanent total disability, insurer Liberty Northwest Insurance Corporation requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) to review the award. The ALJ dismissed insurer’s hearing request as time-barred. The question on review before the Oregon Supreme Court was whether that dismissal entitled claimant to attorney fees under ORS 656.382(2), which provided that, if an insurer initiates review of a compensation award and the reviewing body “finds that ... all or part of the compensation awarded ... should not be reduced or disallowed,” the insurer shall pay the claimant’s attorney a “reasonable attorney fee.” The ALJ determined that the statute applied to the dismissal of insurer’s claim and awarded fees to claimant. The Workers’ Compensation Board reached a different conclusion and reversed that decision. The Court of Appeals affirmed without opinion. The Oregon Supreme Court reversed, finding the ALJ correctly determined that his dismissal of insurer’s request for hearing entitled claimant to attorney fees. The board erred in concluding otherwise. View "Arvidson v. Liberty Northwest Ins. Corp." on Justia Law
Busch v. McInnis Waste Systems, Inc.
Plaintiff had the right-of-way and was walking across a crosswalk in downtown Portland when defendant’s garbage truck struck him. By the time the truck stopped, plaintiff’s leg was under the truck and attached to his body by a one-inch piece of skin. Plaintiff was fully conscious and alert, and he experienced tremendous pain. Plaintiff had surgery to amputate his leg just above the knee. In this personal injury action, the issue presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review centered on the constitutionality of a statutory cap on the damages that a plaintiff may recover for injuries resulting from a breach of a common-law duty. Here, plaintiff brought a personal injury claim for damages against defendant, a private entity, and, pursuant to ORS 31.710(1), the trial court reduced the noneconomic damages that the jury awarded — $10,500,000 — to the maximum amount permitted by statute — $500,000. The Court of Appeals held that, as applied to plaintiff, the cap violated the remedy clause of Article I, section 10, of the Oregon Constitution and reversed. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals and reversed the decision of the circuit court. View "Busch v. McInnis Waste Systems, Inc." on Justia Law
McCormick v. Oregon Parks & Recreation Dept.
Plaintiff Benjamin McCormick brought this action against the State of Oregon for injuries he sustained while recreating in Lake Billy Chinook. The State moved for summary judgment, asserting that it was entitled to recreational immunity under ORS 105.682. In response, plaintiff contended that the state did not “directly or indirectly permit” the public to use the lake for recreational purposes. Specifically, he contended that, under both the public trust doctrine and the public use doctrine, the public already had a right to use the lake for recreational purposes and, therefore, the State did not “permit” that use. The trial court granted the State summary judgment, but the Court of Appeals reversed. On review, the Oregon Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision. For the purposes of the recreational immunity statute, the Supreme Court held an owner could “permit” public recreational use of its land, even if it could not completely prohibit that use. More specifically, an owner could “permit” public recreational use of its land if, among other alternatives, it made that use possible by creating access to and developing the land for that use. View "McCormick v. Oregon Parks & Recreation Dept." on Justia Law
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