Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court

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The question presented was whether Oregon law permitted a plaintiff, who suffered an adverse medical outcome resulting in physical harm, to state a common-law medical negligence claim by alleging that the defendant negligently caused a loss of his chance at recovery. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded, as a matter of first impression, that a medical negligence claim based on a loss-of-chance theory of injury in the circumstances presented was cognizable under Oregon common law. View "Smith v. Providence Health & Services" on Justia Law

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The issue in this workers’ compensation case was whether claimant was entitled to benefits for his “combined condition” claim. Claimant filed- and his employer’s insurer, SAIF Corporation, initially accepted-a claim for a lumbar strain combined with preexisting lumbar disc disease and related conditions. SAIF later denied the combined condition claim on the ground that the lumbar strain had ceased to be the major contributing cause of the combined condition. Claimant objected. He did not contest that his lumbar strain had ceased to be the major contributing cause of his combined condition. Instead, he argued that the otherwise compensable injury was not limited to the lumbar strain that SAIF had accepted as part of his combined condition claim. In claimant’s view, an “otherwise compensable injury” within the meaning of ORS 656.005(7)(a)(B) referred not just to the condition that SAIF accepted, but also includes any other conditions not accepted that might have resulted from the same work-related accident that caused the lumbar strain, and that larger group of work-related conditions continued to be the major contributing cause of his combined condition. As a result, claimant contended that an employer could not close a combined condition claim if any of those non accepted conditions remained the major cause of the combined condition claim. The Workers’ Compensation Board rejected claimant’s argument and upheld SAIF’s denial of claimant’s combined condition claim, concluding that existing precedent defined the “otherwise compensable injury” component of combined conditions to consist of the condition or conditions that the employer has accepted as compensable. The Court of Appeals reversed, acknowledging that its holding was “potentially at odds” with existing precedents from both that court and the Oregon Supreme Court. It nevertheless concluded that those precedents were either distinguishable or should be reconsidered. The Supreme Court concluded that the Court of Appeals erred and that the Workers’ Compensation Board was correct. View "Brown v. SAIF Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sustained injuries while working for Union Pacific Railroad Company “as a spiker machine operator near Minidoka, Idaho.” Union Pacific’s decision to reduce “the spiker machine’s customary three-[person] crew to a two-[person] crew” placed greater physical demands on plaintiff, causing or contributing to the injuries he suffered. As a result of Union Pacific’s alleged negligent maintenance of the spiker machine and its decision to reduce the number of persons operating that machine, plaintiff suffered economic and noneconomic damages totaling approximately $615,000. The question this case presented was whether the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment permitted Oregon to exercise general jurisdiction over an interstate railroad for claims unrelated to the railroad’s activities in Oregon. The trial court ruled that it could exercise general jurisdiction over the railroad and denied the railroad’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s negligence action for lack of personal jurisdiction. After the railroad petitioned for a writ of mandamus, the Supreme Court issued an alternative writ to the trial court, which adhered to its initial ruling. After review, the Supreme Court held that due process did not permit Oregon courts to exercise general jurisdiction over the railroad. View "Barrett v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was working for BNSF Railway Company in Pasco, Washington, where she was repairing a locomotive engine. While she was reaching up to remove an engine part, the “portable stair supplied by [BNSF] rolled or kicked out from under [p]laintiff,” causing her to sustain substantial injuries. The question that this case presented was whether, by appointing a registered agent in Oregon, defendant (a foreign corporation) impliedly consented to have Oregon courts adjudicate any and all claims against it regardless of whether those claims have any connection to defendant’s activities in the state. Defendant moved to dismiss this action because the trial court lacked general jurisdiction over it. When the court denied the motion, defendant petitioned for an alternative writ of mandamus. The Oregon Supreme Court issued the writ, and held as a matter of state law, that the legislature did not intend that appointing a registered agent pursuant to ORS 60.731(1) would constitute consent to the jurisdiction of the Oregon courts. View "Figueroa v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are brothers, aged eight and twelve, were crossing a street in a crosswalk with the walk signal with their seven-year-old younger brother. Defendant negligently drove his pickup truck through the crosswalk, running over the youngest boy and narrowly missing the other two. The brother who was struck died at the scene. The two surviving brothers witnessed their brother’s death and experienced serious emotional injuries as a result. This case tasked the Oregon Supreme Court to consider the circumstances, if any, under which damages could be recovered by a bystander who suffers serious emotional distress as a result of observing the negligent physical injury of another person. The trial court dismissed the action and the Court of Appeals affirmed, both relying on the “impact rule,” which allows a plaintiff to seek damages for negligently caused emotional distress only if the plaintiff can show some physical impact to himself or herself, thus precluding the claims brought by plaintiffs in this case. The Supreme Court concluded that plaintiffs should be able to pursue their claims notwithstanding the fact that they did not themselves suffer physical injury. The Court therefore reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and the judgment of the circuit court, and remanded the case to the trial court. View "Philibert v. Kluser" on Justia Law

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This consolidated appeal concerned six civil actions against an ambulance company for permitting a paramedic in its employ to sexually abuse women while they were patients. The claims were alleged under ORS 124.100(5), which authorized a vulnerable person to bring an action against a person who “permit[s]” another person to engage in physical or financial abuse “if the person knowingly acts or fails to act under circumstances in which a reasonable person should have known” of the abuse. The ambulance company moved for summary judgment on the ground that there was no evidence that it actually knew of its para-medic’s abuse against plaintiffs and then acted in a way that permitted that abuse to occur. The trial court agreed and granted the motion. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the statute does not require actual knowledge of a plaintiff’s abuse. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals and reversed the trial court. View "Wyers v. American Medical Response Northwest, Inc." on Justia Law

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After considering SAIF Corporation's medical evidence, the Workers’ Compensation Board (board) found that the evidence did not satisfy SAIF’s burden of persuasion and entered an order finding that claimant Roger Thompson's heart attack was a compensable occupational disease. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the board erred in concluding that only one type of medical evidence (evidence of risk factors unique to the claimant and unrelated to his work) would rebut the presumption. After review, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that the Court of Appeals misperceived the basis for the board’s order. Furthermore, the Court concluded the board reasonably found, on the evidence before it, that SAIF had failed to satisfy its burden of persuasion. The Supreme Court accordingly reversed the Court of Appeals decision and affirmed the board’s order. View "SAIF v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was an employee of a subcontractor working on a construction jobsite. Plaintiff fell while framing the third floor of a townhome that was under construction. In this action, plaintiff brought claims for relief against the general contractor under Oregon’s Employer Liability Law (ELL), and for common-law negligence, in which he sought damages for injuries that he suffered in the fall. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the general contractor, Polygon Northwest Company (Polygon), on both of plaintiff’s claims, after concluding that there were no genuine issues of material fact and that Polygon was entitled to prevail as a matter of law. Plaintiff appealed. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to withstand a motion for summary judgment on the specification of his ELL claim that Polygon retained a right to control the method or manner in which the risk-producing activity was performed. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision affirming the dismissal of the retained right of control specification of plaintiff’s ELL claim, and remanded that claim to the trial court for further proceedings. The Court affirmed the lower courts with respect to plaintiff’s negligence claim and the remaining specifications of his ELL claim. View "Yeatts v. Polygon Northwest Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the personal representative of the estate of Martha Delgado, alleged in her complaint that Delgado, a foreign exchange student staying in this country under the supervision of defendants Rotary International and Rotary International District 5100, was shot and killed by an assailant while standing in line on a public sidewalk outside the "Zone," a teenage nightclub in Portland owned by several business entities. On defendants’ motion, the trial court dismissed plaintiff’s complaint on the ground that plaintiff had failed to state facts sufficient to constitute a claim for relief with respect to the issue whether Delgado’s death was a foreseeable result of defendants’ conduct. A divided panel of the Court of Appeals reversed. On review, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that plaintiff alleged facts that, if proved, were sufficient to permit a reasonable juror to find that Delgado’s death was a reasonably foreseeable result of defendants’ conduct. Accordingly, the decision of the Court of Appeals was affirmed, and the judgment dismissing this action was reversed and the matter remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Piazza v. Kellim" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was injured in an automobile accident and filed a claim for underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits with defendant Country Preferred Insurance. The insurer submitted a letter that satisfied the attorney fee safe harbor requirements of ORS 742.061(3). The case was arbitrated, and plaintiff prevailed and was awarded attorney fees. Defendant filed exceptions to the fee award in the circuit court, and the court concluded that defendant’s safe harbor letter precluded the award of fees. Plaintiff appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that defendant was ineligible for the protection of the attorney fee safe harbor because, in arbitration, in its answer to plaintiff’s complaint, defendant had raised issues in addition to the liability of the underinsured motorist and the damages due to plaintiff. On review, the Oregon Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals that defendant was not entitled to the protection of ORS 742.061(3), and affirmed the award of reasonable attorney fees. View "Kiryuta v. Country Preferred Ins. Co." on Justia Law