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Plaintiff purchased an automobile insurance policy from Progressive. The policy included UM coverage with a limit of $25,000. Plaintiff was injured in an automobile accident with an uninsured motorist. Plaintiff filed a proof of loss for UM benefits with Progressive. ORS 742.061(1) generally provides for an award of attorney fees when an insured brings an action against his or her insurer and recovers more than the amount tendered by the insurer. Subsection (3) provides a “safe harbor” for the insurer: an insured is not entitled to attorney fees if, within six months of the filing of a proof of loss, the insurer states in writing that it has accepted coverage, that it agrees to binding arbitration, and that the only remaining issues are the liability of the uninsured motorist and the “damages due the insured.” At issue in this case was what the safe-harbor statute meant when it referred to the “damages due the insured.” The insurer, Progressive Classic Insurance Company, responded to plaintiff’s claim by agreeing that the accident was covered by the policy, but challenged the nature and extent of plaintiff’s injuries, as well as the reasonableness and necessity of his medical expenses. Plaintiff argued that, by reserving the right to challenge the nature and extent of his injuries, Progressive raised issues that went beyond the “damages due the insured.” The trial court, Court of Appeals and Oregon Supreme Court all rejected plaintiff’s construction of the safe-harbor statute. View "Spearman v. Progressive Classic Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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A Washington State Trooper had probable cause to believe that defendant was violating Washington traffic laws and initiated a stop in Washington; however, the trooper did not complete the stop until both he and defendant had travelled across the state line into Oregon. In a subsequent prosecution for driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII), defendant moved to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the trooper’s stop, arguing that the trooper had violated defendant’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Oregon Constitution. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded that, although Oregon law did not grant the trooper authority to stop defendant in Oregon, the evidence was constitutionally obtained and admissible. The Court reversed the contrary decision of the Court of Appeals, and affirmed the circuit court’s judgment of conviction. View "Oregon v. Keller" on Justia Law

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Did defendant intend to consent to the search of closed containers inside his backpack? The Oregon Supreme Court found it was unclear whether the trial court so understood the inquiry before it, and, the Supreme Court concluded that opposing inferences permissibly could have been drawn from the evidence as to that issue. Before his trial on a charge of possession of a controlled substance, defendant moved to suppress the state’s primary evidence, drugs that a police officer found in a warrantless but purportedly consensual search of defendant’s backpack, on the ground that they were obtained in violation the Oregon Constitution. The trial court denied the motion and defendant was convicted. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, concluding that defendant’s consent to the search of his backpack did not extend to untying and looking into an opaque grocery bag, inside the backpack, in which the drugs were found. The state sought review of that decision, arguing that defendant’s unqualified consent to the police officer’s generalized request to search the backpack should be deemed on the record to encompass consent to open any closed but unlocked containers found inside. The Supreme Court concluded that the state’s argument did not comport with Article I, section 9. The Court reversed the Court of Appeals, and vacated the judgment convicting defendant. The case was remanded to the circuit court to reconsider its suppression decision under the correct standard. View "Oregon v. Blair" on Justia Law

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Out-of-state architects engaged in the illegal practice of architecture by holding themselves out as being licensed in Oregon. The Oregon Board of Architect Examiners (board) petitioned for certiorari review of the Court of Appeals decision to reverse in part the board’s determination that respondents (the Washington firm Twist Architecture & Design, Inc., and its principals, Callison and Hansen), engaged in the unlawful practice of architecture and unlawfully represented themselves as architects. The board argued respondents, who were not licensed to practice architecture in Oregon, engaged in the “practice of architecture” when they prepared master plans depicting the size, shape, and placement of buildings on specific properties in conformance with applicable laws and regulations for a client that was contemplating the construction of commercial projects. The board further argued that respondents’ use of the term “architecture” in the logo on those master plans and the phrase “Licensed in the State of Oregon (pending)” on their website violated the law prohibiting unlicensed individuals from representing themselves as architects or indicating that they were practicing architecture. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed with the board, reversed the Court of Appeals, and affirmed the board's order. View "Twist Architecture v. Board of Architect Examiners" on Justia Law

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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 involved ad valorem property taxes: the land at issue had been exempted from some property taxes because it was specially assessed as nonexclusive farm use zone farmland. When that special assessment ends, the property ordinarily has an additional tax levied against it. The question here was whether an exception created by ORS 308A.709(5) applied to excuse the payment of that additional tax. The Tax Court agreed with the Department of Revenue and concluded that the exception was not available. The Port of Morrow appealed. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded that the statutory text on which this case turned, “the date the disqualification [from special assessment] is taken into account on the assessment and tax roll,” meant the date the disqualification became effective on the assessment and tax roll. As a result of that holding, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Boardman Acquisition LLC v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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In 2012, the Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division (DMV) of the Department of Transportation suspended defendant Dorothy Rafeh’s driver’s license for three years for refusing to submit voluntarily to a blood alcohol test. Approximately two and one-half years later, defendant was stopped while driving without a license, and the state charged her with driving while suspended (DWS). The question that this case presented for the Supreme Court’s review was whether the federal Confrontation Clause prohibited the admission, in defendant’s DWS trial, of an earlier certification that defendant had been given notice that the state intended to suspend her driver’s license. The trial court admitted the certification over defendant’s objection, and the jury found her guilty of DWS. The Court of Appeals summarily affirmed the resulting judgment. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Oregon v. Rafeh" on Justia Law

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The issue in this case was the scope of a criminal defendant’s right to self-representation when that right is invoked in the middle of trial. In this case, the trial court concluded that defendant had no right to seek self-representation mid-trial. The Court of Appeals affirmed on the ground that the trial court’s decision reflected an “apparent” concern about potential disruption of the trial and, because of that concern, did not amount to an abuse of discretion. The Supreme Court held that, although Article I, section 11, of the Oregon Constitution established a criminal defendant’s right to represent himself or herself in a criminal proceeding, the right was not unqualified. In particular, when the right is asserted well after trial commences, the trial court retains discretion to weigh its exercise against the constitutional obligation to preserve the integrity and fairness of the proceeding, as well as the court’s interest in ensuring an orderly and expeditious trial. If a trial court exercises that discretion to deny a defendant’s motion for self-representation, it should make a record that reflects how it exercised that discretion. View "Oregon v. Hightower" on Justia Law

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The Oregon Supreme Court explained that, in a criminal action, when the state proffers evidence of uncharged acts, either to prove a defendant’s propensity to commit charged crimes under OEC 404(4), or for a nonpropensity purpose under OEC 404(3), and a defendant objects to the admission of that evidence, the trial court must conduct balancing under OEC 403, according to its terms, to determine whether the probative value of the challenged evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. Defendant was charged with 12 counts of child sexual abuse. Before trial, the state filed a motion to permit it to introduce evidence that defendant also had sexually abused a different child. The state argued that that evidence was relevant for a number of nonpropensity purposes under OEC 404(3). Defendant countered that, because his defense was not mistaken identity or lack of intent, but, instead, that the charged acts of abuse had not occurred, the proffered evidence was not relevant for a nonpropensity purpose. Further, defendant argued, even if the evidence was minimally relevant, its probative value was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice and it was therefore inadmissible under OEC 403. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals, reversed the trial court’s judgment of conviction, and remanded this case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Oregon v. Baughman" on Justia Law