Justia Oregon Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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In this case, the Oregon Supreme Court was asked to decide the scope of the state civil rights laws and antiretaliation provision in ORS 659A.030(1)(f). The question before the Court was whether the retaliation prohibited by the statute included includes disparaging statements made by defendant, plaintiff’s former supervisor, to an admissions officer at plaintiff’s MBA program. Defendant offered two reasons why it would not be: (1) he was not a “person;” and (2) his statements to the admissions officer did not “otherwise discriminate against” plaintiff, within the meaning of those terms as used in the statute. The Supreme Court disagree with both. “Person,” the Court determined, included all “individuals,” and “otherwise discriminate against” was a broad term that encompasses defendant’s conduct. The Court therefore affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals, which ruled in plaintiff’s favor and remanded this case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "McLaughlin v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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Before the Oregon Supreme Court in this case was a child custody dispute arising out of father’s motion to modify a custody determination made at the time of the dissolution of the parties’ marriage, which awarded mother sole legal custody of child. At the conclusion of the modification proceeding, the trial court found that there had been a material change in circumstances concerning mother’s ability to parent child and that a change of custody from mother to father was in child’s best interest, and it awarded sole legal custody of child to father. On mother’s appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the trial court on the ground that, as a matter of law, there was insufficient evidence in the record to support the court’s finding of a change in circumstances and, thus, that custody modification was not warranted. The Supreme Court found sufficient evidence in the record supported the trial court’s ruling that father had proved a change of circumstances. The Court also addressed an issue that the Court of Appeals did not reach: whether the trial court erred in concluding that a change in custody was in child’s best interest. The Court held the trial court did not err in so concluding. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals. View "Botofan-Miller and Miller" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Defendant Shannon Carpenter was charged with hindering prosecution through concealment under ORS 162.325(1)(a). The State contended defendant had concealed a person for whom police had an arrest warrant. The State alleged defendant concealed that wanted person through allegedly deceptive statements about knowing the party or his whereabouts. The State also charged defendant with possession of a Schedule II controlled substance. Defendant appealed when the Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction for hindering prosecution. The issue presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's consideration centered on whether defendant “concealed” a person for whom a felony arrest warrant had been issued when, upon questioning by a police detective, defendant falsely denied knowing or associating with the wanted person. In response to defendant’s motion for a judgment of acquittal on the charge of hindering prosecution, the trial court concluded that defendant’s denials amounted to concealing the wanted person’s whereabouts, and it therefore denied defendant’s motion. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court concluded that, in requiring proof of “conceal[ing]” another person, ORS 162.325(1)(a) required the State to prove that defendant had hidden the wanted person from ordinary observation. Furthermore, the Supreme Court concluded the state’s evidence - defendant’s false denials of knowledge - did not satisfy that requirement. Conviction was reversed and the matter remanded to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings. View "Oregon v. Carpenter" on Justia Law

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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

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Plaintiffs sought a declaration that the City of Lake Oswego had allow them recreational access to Oswego Lake, either from the shoreline of the city’s waterfront parks (from which the city prohibits all water access) or through the city’s residents-only swim park. According to plaintiffs, the common-law doctrines of public trust and public use protected the public’s right to enter the lake, and the city’s restrictions on access to the lake were contrary to those common-law doctrines. Plaintiffs also contended the city’s restrictions violated the Equal Privileges and Immunities guarantee of the Oregon Constitution. Defendants were the City of Lake Oswego the State of Oregon, and the Lake Oswego Corporation (which held title to riparian rights to the lake). The case reached the Oregon Supreme Court following a summary judgment in which the trial court assumed that the lake was among public waterways to which the doctrine of public trust or public use applied, but held that neither those doctrines nor Article I, section 20, entitled plaintiffs to the declarations they sought. The Court of Appeals affirmed, also without deciding whether the lake was a public waterway. The Supreme Court concluded the trial court correctly granted summary judgment on plaintiffs’ Article I, section 20, challenges. The Court also concluded that neither the public trust nor the public use doctrine granted plaintiffs a right to enter the swim park property and that the public use doctrine did not grant plaintiffs a right to access the water from the waterfront parks. But the Court concluded that, if Oswego Lake was among the navigable waterways that the state held in trust for the public, then neither the state nor the city could unreasonably interfere with the public’s right to enter the water from the abutting waterfront parks. Accordingly, the case was remanded for resolution of the preliminary question of whether the lake was subject to the public trust doctrine and, if the lake was subject to that trust, then for resolution of the factual dispute regarding whether the city’s restriction on entering the lake from the waterfront parks unreasonably interfered with the public’s right to enter the lake from the abutting waterfront parks. View "Kramer v. City of Lake Oswego" on Justia Law

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Sierra Development, LLC (Sierra), a real estate development company in which both Eddie Wilcher and his son were involved, borrowed approximately $5 million from The Mortgage Exchange (MEX), the predecessor in interest of plaintiff Troubled Asset Solutions, LLC (TAS). Wilcher and his son signed a promissory note for the loan as members of Sierra; Wilcher, his son, and his son’s wife also signed the promissory note as “individual guaran- tor(s).” The promissory note stated that it was secured by a trust deed on Sierra Heights, the property owned by Sierra that was to be developed with the loan proceeds, and also by “[a]dditional security” that was “required on this loan.” The promissory note identified as that “additional security” three other properties owned personally by Wilcher, one of which was described as “15 (+/-) acres including residence, Tax Lot 700, Klamath County, Oregon valued at $450,000.” The same three individuals that signed the promissory note also executed the critical document in this case: a deed of trust identifying more than a dozen separate parcels of land as collateral for the loan. The dispute in this case arose because, although the trust deed identified the collateral as including the properties owned personally by Wilcher and contained legal descriptions of those properties, the only name that appeared in the space labeled “GRANTOR” on the first page of the trust deed was Sierra. Wilcher, individually, was not identified as a “grantor” in the trust deed. After the loan went into default, TAS initiated foreclosure proceedings against one of the properties owned personally by Wilcher. The issue presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review centered on the proper legal standard for the reformation of the contract to include a term that all parties had intended, but that one of the parties, by mistake, had failed to include in the written agreement. The trial court reformed the contract to include the term, finding that the mistake “was easily missed,” and that the “evidence is clear that all parties intended” the term to be included. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that reformation was permissible only if the party seeking the remedy demonstrates that it was not “grossly negligent,” and holding that the facts in this case did not meet that standard. The Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not err in reforming the contract to express the parties’ agreement. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed in part the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded for further proceedings. View "Troubled Asset Solutions v. Wilcher" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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The Energy Facility Siting Council modified its rules that govern amending site certificates. Petitioners challenged the validity of the new rules, arguing that the council failed to comply with required rulemaking procedures and that the rules exceeded the council’s statutory authority. FAfter review of petitioners' challenges, the Oregon Supreme Court agreed with some, but not all, of those grounds and concluded that the rules were invalid. View "Friends of Columbia Gorge v. Energy Fac. Siting Coun." on Justia Law

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Acting under authority delegated by the EPA, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a general permit in 2010 for the discharge of certain pollutants resulting from suction dredge mining. Petitioners filed this proceeding arguing, among other things, that only the Army Corps of Engineers had authority under the Clean Water Act to permit the discharge of materials resulting from suction dredge mining. The Court of Appeals disagreed and affirmed the trial court’s order upholding DEQ’s permit. Finding no reversible error, the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed. View "Eastern Oregon Mining Assoc. v. DEQ" on Justia Law

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The State charged defendant Viktor Gensitskiy with one count of aggravated identity theft, based on his possession of files containing personal information regarding 27 other persons. Based on that same conduct, the State also charged defendant with 27 counts of identity theft. Defendant pleaded guilty to all the counts, but argued that his identity thefts merged into his aggravated identity theft because each of the identity thefts was a lesser-included offense of the aggravated identity theft. The trial court rejected defendant’s argument and entered separate convictions for each of the identity thefts and the aggravated identity theft. Defendant appealed, renewing his argument that his identity thefts merged into his aggravated identity theft because each of his identity thefts was a lesser-included offense of his aggravated identity theft. The State did not dispute that each of defendant’s identity thefts was a lesser-included offense of his aggravated identity theft, but argued that, because there were 27 victims, the trial court could impose 27 separate convictions. The Court of Appeals concurred with the state. After review, the Oregon Supreme Court held that the trial court erred in failing to merge defendant’s multiple identity thefts into his aggravated identity theft. View "Oregon v. Gensitskiy" on Justia Law

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The issue this case raised for the Oregon Supreme Court’s review centered on the proper valuation, for property tax purposes, of a shopping center that did not have an anchor tenant on the assessment date. The Tax Court accepted taxpayer’s valuation that significantly decreased the value of the shopping center because it was missing an anchor tenant and was more than 50 percent vacant on the relevant date. On appeal, the Department of Revenue contended the Tax Court erred. According to the department, the shopping center was required to be valued the same as a shopping center that did have an anchor tenant and was only 8-10 percent vacant. The Oregon Supreme Court rejected the Department’s argument and affirmed the Tax Court’s judgment. View "Powell Street I v. Multnomah County Assessor" on Justia Law