Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Pursuant to ORCP 54 B(1), the trial court dismissed plaintiff’s wrongful death action because it found that plaintiff’s counsel willfully failed to comply with two court orders and that, as a result, dismissal was an appropriate sanction. The Court of Appeals affirmed the resulting judgment without opinion. The Oregon Supreme Court allowed plaintiff’s petition for review to clarify the standard that applies when a trial court dismisses an action pursuant to ORCP 54 B(1) for failing to comply with a court order. The Court recognized the difficulty posed by counsel who, for one reason or another, seemed unable to move a case forward in a fair and efficient way. "We trust, however, that ordinarily courts will be able to take remedial steps and impose sanctions short of dismissal when faced with such problems." On this record, the Court could not say that the trial court’s dismissal was supported by evidence that plaintiff’s counsel willfully failed to comply with the court’s orders. The Court accordingly reversed the trial court’s judgment and the Court of Appeals decision and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Lang v. Rogue Valley Medical Center" on Justia Law

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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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This case was an original mandamus proceeding, arising from a medical negligence action in which plaintiff-relator sought damages for physical injuries. Plaintiff filed suit seeking damages for physical injuries suffered as the result of a foot surgery that, as alleged in his complaint, left him with "severe and permanent injury to his right foot and ankle leaving him unable to use his foot and suffering constant pain and numbness." The issue on appeal was whether plaintiff, who, without objection by his counsel, answered questions in a discovery deposition about the treatment of his physical condition by health care providers, thereby waived his physician-patient privilege under OEC 511, so as to allow pretrial discovery depositions of those health care providers. The Oregon Supreme Court court allowed plaintiff’s petition for an alternative writ of mandamus, in which he challenged a circuit court order that allowed the providers’ depositions. After review, the Court concluded that, by answering questions about his treatment at his discovery deposition, plaintiff did not "offer" (and thereby voluntarily disclose) that testimony so as to waive his privilege. Accordingly, the Court issued a peremptory writ of mandamus directing the circuit court to vacate its order allowing the depositions. View "Barrier v. Beaman" 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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In June 2002, defendant Ron Miller entered into an open account agreement with plaintiff Union Lumber Company for the purchase of building supply materials. In July 2010, plaintiff filed an action for breach of contract and unjust enrichment against Ron Miller and his spouse Linda Miller, seeking $17,865 as the unpaid balance on the account. The complaint alleged that defendants' son, Ean Miller, had purchased building materials from plaintiff, charging those materials to the Miller account with his father's authority. The complaint further alleged that the materials that Ean purchased were delivered to properties that defendants owned and were used to improve those properties and that, for several years, defendants had paid the charges that Ean had made on the account. The question this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether the trial court erred in denying defendants' motion under ORCP 71 B(1) to set aside a general judgment entered against them on grounds of excusable neglect and mistake. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's ruling, concluding that the judgment was entered as a result of mistakes made by plaintiff and a court-appointed arbitrator with respect to the service of case-related documents on defendants. Because the Supreme Court concluded that defendants were not entitled to relief from the judgment on the grounds asserted, it reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the trial court's order denying defendants' motion to set aside the judgment. View "Union Lumber Co. v. Miller" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff purchased an insurance policy from defendant that provided coverage for his house, other structures on his property, personal property, and loss of use for up to 12 months. The policy also included “extended dwelling coverage,” which provided additional coverage of 50 percent to pay for unexpected repair or rebuilding costs that exceeded the base amount of coverage for the house. A fire completely destroyed plaintiff’s house and its contents and damaged other structures on the property. Plaintiff and defendant disagreed about what was owed under the policy. In particular, the parties disagreed about whether plaintiff was entitled to the extended dwelling coverage without having to first actually replace the house. After a lengthy and complicated trial, the jury returned a special verdict finding for plaintiff on his breach of contract claim and assessing damages in the amount of the limits of the extended dwelling coverage. The jury also found for defendant on the counterclaim, however. The trial court declined to enter a judgment awarding plaintiff any damages. The court concluded that, in light of the jury’s findings on the counterclaim, the insurance policy had been voided, and as a result, it was defendant who was entitled to a judgment for all payments that it had made under the policy up to that time. Plaintiff appealed. The Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court had erred in even sending the counterclaim to the jury because there was no evidence that defendant had reasonably relied on any misrepresentations by plaintiff. Defendant petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court, which ultimately denied defendant’s petition. Plaintiff sought an award of $30,771 in attorney fees incurred before the Supreme Court, contending that, given the Court of Appeals’ decision, he was the prevailing party on appeal and was entitled to fees. The Supreme Court concluded that plaintiff’s action was “upon [a] policy of insurance” within the meaning of ORS 742.061(1), and therefore did not address whether defendant was correct about the insufficiency of plaintiff’s “alternative” theory of recovery under the statute, based on his defeat of the counterclaim. Defendant advanced no other objection to the requested award of fees. The petition for attorney fees was allowed. View "Masood v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Oregon" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed this action claiming, among other things, that a quorum of the Lane County commissioners had violated ORS 192.630(2) by engaging in a series of private communications to decide whether to comply with a public records request. Plaintiff’s claim raised two issues: (1) whether a quorum of a public body can “meet” in violation of ORS 192.630(2) by means of seriatim communications or whether a quorum can meet only if all the members of the quorum are present at the same time; and (2) whether, if a quorum can meet by means of seriatim communications, plaintiff’s evidence was sufficient to establish that a quorum of the commissioners met privately. The trial court assumed that a quorum could be met by means of seriatim communications, but it ruled that plaintiff had not offered sufficient evidence to avoid defendants’ special motion to strike. The court accordingly dismissed plaintiff’s claims without prejudice. The Court of Appeals reversed. After review, the Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that, given the evidence that plaintiff offered in response to defendants’ special motion to strike, no reasonable trier of fact could find that a quorum met to decide whether to comply with the public records request. The Court reversed the Court of Appeals' decision with respect to that issue, and remanded this matter back to the appellate court for further consideration on whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying plaintiff's request for further discovery. View "Handy v. Lane County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sought a prescriptive easement over an existing road that crossed defendants’ property. The dispute in this case was whether plaintiff satisfied the requirement to prove “adverse use.” The trial court found that plaintiff did establish adverse use of the road in either of two ways: (1) plaintiff’s use of the road interfered with defendants’ rights, in that defendants could see vehicles passing in close proximity to their house; or (2) in the alternative, plaintiff established adversity through testimony that he believed (although without communicating that belief to defendants) that he had the right to use the road without defendants’ permission. The Court of Appeals affirmed. After review of this matter, the Supreme Court concluded that the trial court and the Court of Appeals erred: in this case, there is a complete absence of evidence in the record that plaintiff’s use of the road either interfered with the owners’ use or that plaintiff’s use was undertaken under a claim of right of which the owners were aware. The trial and appellate courts’ decisions were reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Wels v. Hippe" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a Washington corporation and casino operator, brought an action in Oregon against the city of Portland under the Oregon Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act, seeking a declaration that certain practices the city had approved through its “social gaming” permitting system were contrary to Oregon law. Plaintiff asserted that it was adversely affected by the city’s issuance of permits to engage in those gaming practices to establishments in Portland, in that persons who previously had patronized its casino in Washington were choosing to gamble in city-permitted card rooms in Portland instead. The city moved for summary judgment on the ground that plaintiff lacked standing, and the trial court granted the motion, reasoning that, insofar as plaintiff’s Washington casino was not subject to the “legal system” that was the object of the declaratory judgment action, plaintiff had no “rights, status [or] other legal relations” that could be adversely affected. The Court of Appeals agreed, holding that, to establish standing under the declaratory judgment act, a plaintiff must be subject to the laws it asks the court to construe or must, at least, do business or own property in Oregon. But on appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court, the city argued that the Oregon Court should have limited standing in a declaratory judgment action to those persons who could demonstrate that their interests were within the “zone of interests” that the relevant statute sought to protect. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals' reasoning and affirmed its judgment. View "MT&M Gaming, Inc. v. City of Portland" on Justia Law