Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court

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The issue in this case is whether the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (county) complied with the requirements of ORS 408.230(2)(c) to “devise and apply methods” of giving veterans and disabled veterans “special consideration” in the hiring process, or as here, when it failed to promote a disabled veteran. The Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) concluded that the county did fail to comply with the statute, as well as administrative rules that implement it. BOLI ordered the county to comply with the law, to train its staff, and to pay the disabled veteran $50,000 in damages for his emotional distress. The county appealed, but the Oregon Supreme Court concluded BOLI correctly construed ORS 408.230(2)(c) and that, given the unchallenged findings in the agency’s final order, there was no basis for the county’s contention that BOLI erred in finding a violation of that statute. With regard to BOLI’s authority to award damages for emotional distress, the county failed to preserve that argument. The Court therefore affirmed the Court of Appeals and the final order of BOLI. View "Multnomah County Sheriff's Office v. Edwards" on Justia Law

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The issue in this workers’ compensation case was whether claimant was entitled to benefits for his “combined condition” claim. Claimant filed- and his employer’s insurer, SAIF Corporation, initially accepted-a claim for a lumbar strain combined with preexisting lumbar disc disease and related conditions. SAIF later denied the combined condition claim on the ground that the lumbar strain had ceased to be the major contributing cause of the combined condition. Claimant objected. He did not contest that his lumbar strain had ceased to be the major contributing cause of his combined condition. Instead, he argued that the otherwise compensable injury was not limited to the lumbar strain that SAIF had accepted as part of his combined condition claim. In claimant’s view, an “otherwise compensable injury” within the meaning of ORS 656.005(7)(a)(B) referred not just to the condition that SAIF accepted, but also includes any other conditions not accepted that might have resulted from the same work-related accident that caused the lumbar strain, and that larger group of work-related conditions continued to be the major contributing cause of his combined condition. As a result, claimant contended that an employer could not close a combined condition claim if any of those non accepted conditions remained the major cause of the combined condition claim. The Workers’ Compensation Board rejected claimant’s argument and upheld SAIF’s denial of claimant’s combined condition claim, concluding that existing precedent defined the “otherwise compensable injury” component of combined conditions to consist of the condition or conditions that the employer has accepted as compensable. The Court of Appeals reversed, acknowledging that its holding was “potentially at odds” with existing precedents from both that court and the Oregon Supreme Court. It nevertheless concluded that those precedents were either distinguishable or should be reconsidered. The Supreme Court concluded that the Court of Appeals erred and that the Workers’ Compensation Board was correct. View "Brown v. SAIF Corp." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether the City of Lebanon (city) committed an unfair labor practice under Oregon’s Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA) when one of its council members, Campbell, wrote a letter to a local newspaper disparaging labor unions in general and calling for city employees to decertify their existing union. The Employment Relations Board (ERB or board) concluded that the city had engaged in an unfair labor practice based on Campbell’s conduct. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the city was not liable because Campbell had not acted as a “public employer or its designated representative” within the meaning of PECBA. The Supreme Court disagreed, reversed and remanded the matter back to the ERB for further proceedings. View "AFSCME Council 75 v. City of Lebanon" on Justia Law

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In the underlying litigation to this appeal, claimants were petitioners or represented petitioners who challenged legislation passed in 2013 that changed the pension benefits paid to certain members of the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) by limiting the statutory cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) and eliminating a PERS income-tax offset for out-of-state retirees. In "Moro v. Oregon," (351 P.3d 1 (2015) (Moro I)), the Oregon Supreme Court largely agreed with petitioners’ argument that modifications to the COLA formula impaired petitioners’ contractual rights, thus violating Article I, section 21, of the Oregon Constitution. But the Court rejected petitioners’ similar challenge to the elimination of the income-tax offset. Petitioners, who were active and retired members of PERS, were the prevailing parties. Following the decision in Moro I, claimants petitioned for attorney fees and costs. State respondents and county/school district respondents filed objections. The Supreme Court referred those petitions to a special master for recommended findings of fact and conclusions of law. The special master reported his recommendations, and the parties subsequently filed objections and responses to those recommendations. The issues raised in those filings included which legal doctrines justified an award of attorney fees in this case; whether self-represented attorneys were eligible to receive an award of attorney fees; whether the fees sought by claimants were reasonable; and how to pay for an award of fees and costs. After review, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that fees should be awarded based on the common-fund and substantial-benefit doctrines; that the self-represented attorneys were eligible to receive a fee award under those doctrines; that a reasonable fee award under the lodestar approach had to be based on reasonable hourly rates and reflect reductions to account for duplicative work and work on unsuccessful claims; and that an award in this case should be paid for as determined by the Public Employees Retirement Board (PERB) in a manner that was consistent with its statutory authority and fiduciary obligations. View "Moro v. Oregon" on Justia 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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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 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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In this case, an administrative law judge (ALJ) determined that certain taxicab drivers performed services for Broadway Cab LLC for remuneration and were not independent contractors. Therefore, the ALJ concluded, Broadway was liable for unemployment insurance taxes on the drivers’ wages. The Court of Appeals agreed with the ALJ and affirmed. Broadway appealed, and after its review, the Supreme Court found no reversible error and also affirmed. View "Broadway Cab LLC v. Employment Dept." on Justia Law