Bundy v. NuStar GP, LLC

The issue before the Oregon Supreme Court in this matter was whether the Court of Appeals correctly construed the scope of ORS 656.019 in a case arising out of plaintiff’s attempt to allege civil negligence claims against his employer, defendant NuStar GP, LLC, for harm arising out of plaintiff’s exposure to gasoline vapors at work. The trial court denied plaintiff Danny Bundy’s motion to amend his complaint to allege those claims after concluding that the claims were barred by the so-called “exclusive remedy” provision of the Workers’ Compensation Law, ORS 656.018, a provision that generally immunizes employers from civil liability for injuries to a worker arising out of the worker’s employment. Plaintiff argued his negligence claims were not barred because they were allowed by ORS 656.019, a statute that governed negligence actions for an injury “that has been determined to be not compensable [under the Workers’ Compensation Law] because the worker has failed to establish that a work-related incident was the major contributing cause of the worker’s injury.” Although plaintiff alleged that he suffered from medical conditions that were determined to be “not compensable” under that major contributing cause standard, the trial court and Court of Appeals concluded that ORS 656.019 did not apply to plaintiff’s negligence action because the conditions on which plaintiff relied were denied after defendant accepted a compensable workers’ compensation claim for plaintiff’s initial condition arising out of the same workplace incident. The Oregon Supreme Court expressly reserved the comprehensive statutory analysis needed to resolve whether the legislature intended ORS 656.019 to function as a substantive exception to the exclusive remedy provision, and resolved only the single issue of statutory construction that was raised by the petition for review and argued by the parties. Because the parties assumed that ORS 656.019 would allow plaintiff to file his Fourth Amended Complaint if the statute applied to plaintiff’s negligence claims, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of plaintiff’s motion to amend. “That limited holding is not intended to preclude these or future parties from properly presenting an argument that the legislature did not intend ORS 656.019 to function as a substantive exception to the exclusive remedy provision.” The decision of the Court of Appeals and the circuit court was reversed, and the case was remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Bundy v. NuStar GP, LLC" on Justia Law