Justia Oregon Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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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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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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After being terminated by defendant Nike, Inc., plaintiff Douglas Ossanna sued his former employer. Plaintiff alleged, among other things, that Nike had unlawfully fired him in retaliation for his safety complaints and for whistleblowing. Based on his theory that his supervisors held a retaliatory bias against him, plaintiff requested a “cat’s paw” jury instruction informing the jury that, in considering his claims, it could impute a subordinate supervisor’s biased retaliatory motive to Nike’s formal decision-maker, an upper manager with firing authority, if the biased subordinate supervisor influenced, affected, or was involved in the decision to fire plaintiff. The trial court declined to give the instruction, and the jury returned a verdict for Nike. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court’s refusal to give the requested “cat’s paw” instruction was an instructional error that prejudiced plaintiff. The Oregon Supreme Court held the “cat’s paw” doctrine was a viable theory in Oregon. For an employer to be liable, however, a plaintiff relying on the imputed-bias theory also must establish a causal connection between the supervisor’s bias and the adverse employment action; the causation requirement for the claim at issue controls the degree of causation required to impose liability. The Court also concluded the trial court erred in declining to give plaintiff’s “cat’s paw” jury instruction, because the instruction was a correct and applicable statement of the law, and that the instructional error prejudiced plaintiff. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Court of Appeals, reversed the trial court as to plaintiff’s retaliation claims, and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Ossanna v. Nike, Inc." on Justia Law

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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

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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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Shriners Hospitals for Children brought this action against defendant Michael Cox to collect on a note and obtained a default judgment against him. Shriners’ argument that defendant was judicially estopped from moving to set aside the default judgment was based on Shriners’ claim that defendant used the default judgment to his advantage in two other judicial proceedings: a dissolution action between defendant and his wife and a malpractice action that defendant brought against one of his lawyers in the dissolution proceeding. The primary question before the Oregon Supreme Court in this case was whether defendant was judicially estopped from setting aside the default judgment that, he contends, resulted from improper service. The trial court found that, even if service were improper, defendant knew about the default judgment shortly after it was entered and used it to his benefit in two judicial proceedings. The trial court ruled that, in those circumstances, defendant waited too long to set it aside. The Court of Appeals reached a different conclusion, reasoning the default judgment was void; as a result, neither the passage of time nor other circumstances barred defendant from seeking to set the judgment aside. The Supreme Court concluded that, in the circumstances of this case, defendant was judicially estopped from setting the default judgment aside, and reversed the Court of Appeals decision. View "Shriners Hospitals for Children v. Cox" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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In 2009, DISH Network Corporation (DISH) received an assessment order from the Oregon Department of Revenue showing that its property in Oregon for tax purposes was valued at an amount that exceeded the previous year’s valuation by nearly 100 percent. The increase came about because the department had subjected DISH’s property to central assessment and thus, also, to “unit valuation,” a method of valuing property that purported to capture the added value associated with a large, nationwide business network that, by statute, was available for central, but not local, assessments. Although DISH objected to the change from local to central assessment, the department insisted that central assessment was required because DISH was using its property in a “communication” business. When DISH was forced to concede defeat on that issue based on DIRECTV, Inc. v. Dept. of Rev., 377 P3d 568 (2016), another issue arose: whether the drastic increase in the assessed value of DISH’s property starting in the 2009-10 tax year violated Article XI, section 11 of the Oregon Constitution. The department argued that, because DISH’s property had been newly added to the central assessment rolls in 2009, the property fell into an exception to the three-percent cap on increases in assessed value - for “new property or new improvements to property.” The Tax Court rejected the department’s “new property” theory and held that the department’s assessments of DISH’s property in the tax years after 2008-09 was unconstitutional. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed with the department that the exception applied and therefore reversed the Tax Court’s decision to the contrary. View "DISH Network Corp. v. Dept. of Rev." 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