Justia Oregon Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Petitioner M.A.B. applied for a Family Abuse Prevention Act (FAPA) protective order against respondent on October 9, 2017. Respondent and petitioner were married in 2014. Together, they had a son, J, who was born in 2015. During the marriage, respondent suffered from depression, for which he took medication. He sometimes also drank to excess. Petitioner testified that respondent raped her twice: once in March 2017 and once in May 2017. The incident in May included respondent dragging petitioner away from J while petitioner was breast feeding. In June 2017, petitioner expressed her unhappiness with the marriage. Respondent replied that, if petitioner left or divorced him, he would kill her and take J. In July 2017, petitioner took J, moved in with her parents, and filed for dissolution. After the separation, respondent made frequent attempts to contact petitioner by phone, email, and text message. At prearranged meetings, respondent regularly exhibited anger toward petitioner. After a hearing, the trial court continued the protective order in its entirety. On appeal, respondent conceded that the trial court’s findings were sufficient to establish that he had abused petitioner within 180 days of petitioner seeking the protective order. Respondent argued, however, that the evidence was insufficient to establish the two other elements: that petitioner was in imminent danger of further abuse from respondent and that respondent presented a credible threat to petitioner’s physical safety. The Court of Appeals agreed with respondent that the evidence was insufficient to show that petitioner was in imminent danger of further abuse from respondent. The court, as a result, reversed the trial court’s order without considering whether respondent represented a credible threat to petitioner’s physical safety. Because the appellate court did not consider whether respondent represented a credible threat to petitioner’s physical safety, the Oregon Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the appeals court to determine that issue in the first instance. View "M. A. B. v. Buell" on Justia Law

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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

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This case arose from Portfolio Recovery’s action to recover a credit card debt from respondent Jason Sanders under a common-law claim for an "account stated." The parties filed competing motions for summary judgment - Portfolio contending that it was entitled to summary judgment on the merits of its account-stated claim, and Sanders contending that he was entitled to summary judgment on his affirmative defense that the claim was governed by, and barred by, the statute of limitations of Virginia, a state with connections to the underlying credit card agreement. The Court of Appeals held that neither party was entitled to summary judgment, and both parties sought review. This case presented two issues for the Oregon Supreme Court's resolution: (1) whether an account-stated claim was established as a matter of law when a credit card customer failed to object to the amount listed as the "new balance" on a credit card statement; and (2) how Oregon's choice-of-law principles revolve a conflict between competing state statutes of limitations when the relevant substantive law of the two states is the same. The Court concurred with the appellate court's finding that neither party was entitled to prevail on summary judgment, and affirmed that ruling. View "Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC v. Sanders" on Justia Law

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The Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) issued a permit, pursuant to ORS 196.825, for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (“Walmart”) to fill and remove some wetlands on private property in order to build a new store in The Dalles. Citizens for Responsible Development in The Dalles (Citizens) opposed the project and appealed the fill permit, arguing that DSL lacked authority to issue the permit because DSL did not find that there was a “public need” for the project. The Court of Appeals agreed with Citizens that DSL erred in issuing the permit “[b]ecause DSL found that it was inconclusive whether the project would address a public need.” The Oregon Supreme Court granted certiorari to construe ORS 196.825, and thereafter affirmed the Court of Appeals: the matter was remanded to DSL. "[A]lthough we disagree with its premise that ORS 196.825 conditions the issuance of every permit on a finding that the proposed project will serve a 'public need,' . . . Because DSL found that all categories of public benefit from the project were 'inconclusive' but failed to find that the project would not 'interfere' with the state’s 'paramount policy,' the record does not support its determination that the project will not 'unreasonably interfere.'” View "Citizens for Resp. Devel. in The Dalles v. Walmart" on Justia Law

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In this forcible entry and detainer (FED) action to recover possession of a residential dwelling unit, the issue presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's consideration was whether the trial court erred in allowing landlord’s motion to amend its complaint, pursuant to ORCP 23, after the parties attended a first-appearance hearing and tenant filed her answer. In its original complaint, landlord alleged that it was entitled to possession based on a 72-hour notice - which, under ORS 90.394, could be given for nonpayment of rent - and attached that notice to its complaint. Two days before trial, landlord sought leave to amend its complaint to attach a different notice, a 30-day notice, which, under ORS 90.392, could be given “for cause,” including a material violation of the rental agreement. The Supreme Court determined the proposed amendment substantially changed landlord’s claim for relief and prejudiced tenant, and that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing it. It therefore reversed both the contrary decisions of the Court of Appeals and the trial court. View "C.O. Homes, LLC v. Cleveland" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from plaintiff Rich Jones’ civil action to recover unpaid wages that defendant Four Corners Rod & Gun Club unlawfully withheld after the parties agreed to trade a lodging benefit for labor. Although Oregon’s wage laws authorized employers to deduct from an employee’s wages “the fair market value of lodging, meals or other facilities or services furnished by the employer for the private benefit of the employee,” those laws also prohibited employers from taking any deduction from wages unless the employer obtains the employee’s advance written authorization and keeps a record of the deductions. Defendant admittedly failed to comply with the requirements for deducting the lodging benefit from plaintiff’s wages. The issue this case presented for the Oregon Supreme Court’s review was whether defendant’s violation of ORS 652.610(3) prevented defendant from asserting an equitable claim for the value of the lodging benefit, either as an affirmative defense to plaintiff’s wage claim or as a lawful counterclaim. The Supreme Court concluded that defendant’s unlawful withholding of wages prevented it from asserting the value of the lodging benefit as an affirmative defense to defeat plaintiff’s wage claim, but did not prevent defendant from asserting an equitable counterclaim for the value of the lodging benefit. View "Jones v. Four Corners Rod & Gun Club" on Justia Law

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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