Articles Posted in Injury 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

Posted in: Injury 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

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The question in this case was whether an injured worker had to provide actual notice of secondary employment in connection with a workers' compensation claims process or whether the employer’s preexisting knowledge of that employment could be imputed to the insurer to satisfy the notice requirement of ORS 656.210(2)(b)(A). The Oregon Supreme Court held that the correct interpretation of ORS 656.210(2)(b)(A) required a claimant to prove that the insurer received actual notice of the claimant’s secondary employment within 30 days of the insurer’s receipt of the initial claim. View "DCBS v. Muliro" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a legal malpractice and negligent misrepresentation case where the trial court judgment granted a directed a verdict in favor of defendant Jack Platten. In an earlier lawsuit, defendant had represented plaintiffs the Harknesses against Kantor, a loan officer, and her successive employers, Sunset Mortgage (Sunset) and Directors Mortgage, Inc. (Directors), as the result of a fraudulent investment and loan scheme directed at plaintiffs by Kantor. That case did not settle to plaintiffs’ satisfaction, and plaintiffs sought to recover their remaining loss from defendant. In this case, the trial court granted defendant’s motion for a directed verdict based on the conclusion that plaintiffs’ liability theories of apparent authority and respondeat superior asserted against Sunset and Directors were not supported by sufficient evidence in the record and could not have led to a result more favorable than the settlement. Plaintiffs appealed the trial court ruling, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that the Court of Appeals interpreted the prevailing caselaw incorrectly, and that a reasonable factfinder could have inferred from the evidence presented that defendants authorized the investment scheme. The court reversed the directed verdict and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Harkness v. Platten" on Justia Law

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This was an action brought by an injured construction worker and his wife. A defective board broke. Plaintiffs Kevin Rains and Mitzi Rains obtained a judgment based on claims of strict products liability and loss of consortium, respectively, against both the retailer, Stayton Builders Mart, and the manufacturer, Weyerhaeuser Company, of the defective wooden board. Stayton, in turn, obtained a judgment against Weyerhaeuser based on its cross-claim for common-law indemnity. Prior to trial, plaintiffs and Stayton had partially settled their claims in an agreement that required Stayton to pay at least $1.5 million in damages to plaintiffs, but capped Stayton’s liability at $2 million. Weyerhaeuser appealed, alleging numerous errors in trial court rulings. The Court of Appeals agreed with Weyerhaeuser that the trial court had erred by refusing to apply a statutory cap on noneconomic damages to plaintiff’s claim for strict products liability and by refusing to require Stayton to discharge its liability to plaintiffs before Stayton could prevail on its indemnity claim against Weyerhaeuser. The Court of Appeals, however, largely rejected Weyerhaeuser’s remaining arguments, affirming the trial court’s decisions: (1) refusing to dismiss Stayton as a defendant for lack of adversity after it had partially settled plaintiffs’ claims; (2) refusing to admit the partial settlement agreement in evidence at trial; (3) failing to allow the jury to allocate fault to the general contractor, Five Star Construction, on the verdict form; and (4) refusing to apply the statutory cap on noneconomic damages to Mitzi Rains’ claim for loss of consortium. And, although the Court of Appeals deducted some of the expenses that Weyerhaeuser challenged in Stayton’s award for defense costs, the deductions were small, and the Court of Appeals largely upheld the trial court’s calculation of Stayton’s defense costs. After its review of this matter, the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed most aspects of the Court of Appeals' decision, but vacated with respect to the parties’ assignments of error concerning the statutory cap on noneconomic damages based on Article I, section 17, of the Oregon Constitution. Those assignments of error were remanded reconsideration in light of the Supreme Court's decision in "Horton v. OHSU," ( 359 Or 168 (2016)). Furthermore, the Court concluded that ORS 20.220(3) required the general judgment in favor of Stayton against Weyerhaeuser awarding defense costs to be reversed, and as such, reversed the Court of Appeals to the extent that it was inconsistent with that conclusion. The limited judgment for indemnity in favor of Stayton against Weyerhaeuser was reversed, as was the general judgment in favor of Stayton for costs on Stayton’s indemnity claim against Weyerhaeuser. View "Rains v. Stayton Builders Mart, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Tyler Turner contended that defendant Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) had contributed to a motor vehicle accident by negligently failing to correct hazardous conditions at the highway intersection where he was injured. In a summary judgment motion, ODOT claimed immunity under ORS 30.265(6)(c). ODOT’s claim of immunity rested on the theory that, because it had a policy of seeking highway safety improvement funding from the legislature only for the most crash-prone sites in the state highway system, ODOT’s omission of the crash site from its appropriation requests amounted to a budget-driven, discretionary policy decision not to make improvements at the site. Plaintiff opposed the motion with evidence that ODOT employees knew that the intersection was dangerous but had neglected to make improvements by using ODOT’s other mechanisms for evaluating and funding low-cost highway safety improvements. Although ODOT prevailed at the trial court, the Court of Appeals determined that questions of fact precluded summary judgment. ODOT argued to the Supreme Court that, when a state agency used a global process for setting priorities and allocating limited resources, discretionary-function immunity attached and the agency need not engage in further, particularized decision-making. "The record on summary judgment does not bear out that premise as a matter of undisputed fact. It follows that ODOT’s employment of the ranking process cannot resolve the issue of ODOT’s immunity under ORS 30.265(6)(c) as a matter of law. "Therefore, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment for ODOT on that ground, and the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals. View "Turner v. Dept. of Transportation" on Justia Law

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The question this case presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review was whether a statute limiting a state employee’s tort liability violated either the remedy clause of Article I, section 10, of the Oregon Constitution or the jury trial clauses of Article I, section 17, and Article VII (Amended), section 3, of the Oregon Constitution. The trial court held that the statute, as applied to the state employee, violated each of those provisions and entered a limited judgment against the employee for the full amount of the jury’s verdict. Plaintiff’s six-month-old son developed a cancerous mass on his liver. Two doctors at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) participated in an operation to remove the mass: Dr. Harrison, a specialist in pediatric surgery, and Dr. Durant, a pediatric surgical fellow in training. During the operation, the doctors inadvertently transected blood vessels going to the child’s liver, resulting in the child having to undergo a liver transplant, removal of his spleen, additional surgeries, and lifetime monitoring due to the risks resulting from the doctors’ act. Plaintiff brought this action on her son’s behalf against Harrison, Durant, OHSU, and Pediatric Surgical Associates, P.C. The trial court granted Pediatric Surgical Associates’ motion for summary judgment, and dismissed Durant as a result of an agreement among plaintiff, OHSU, and Harrison. Pursuant to that agreement, Harrison and OHSU admitted liability for the child’s injuries and plaintiff’s case against Harrison and OHSU went to the jury to determine the amount of the child’s damages. The jury found that plaintiff’s son had sustained and will sustain economic damages of $6,071,190.38 and noneconomic damages of $6,000,000. After the jury returned its verdict, OHSU and Harrison filed a motion to reduce the jury’s verdict to $3,000,000 based on the Oregon Tort Claims Act. The trial court granted the motion as to OHSU. The trial court, however, denied the motion as to Harrison. Harrison appealed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, concluding that applying the Tort Claims Act limit to plaintiff’s claim against defendant did not violate the remedy clause in Article I, section 10, nor does giving effect to that limit violate the jury trial clauses in Article I, section 17, or Article VII (Amended), section 3. View "Horton v. OHSU" on Justia Law