Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court

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Plaintiff Emily Hodges alleged she was injured when the apartment balcony on which she and others were standing collapsed. Plaintiff alleged she suffered injuries to her spine, feet, right leg and hip, and right shoulder, for which she sought $325,000 in economic damages for past and future medical expenses and impaired earning capacity. She also sought $1,000,000 in noneconomic damages. Defendants Oak Tree Realtors, Inc., trustees of a family trust, and several individuals, deposed plaintiff and sought information about plaintiff’s discussions with her treating medical providers relating to her injuries. Plaintiff’s lawyer instructed her not to answer those questions, asserting the physician-patient privilege and that her answers would disclose communications she had had with her treating doctor. Defendants moved to compel answers to their questions regarding her discussions with treating doctors, contending that plaintiff’s communications with them were not protected by the physician-patient privilege. Accepting defendants’ argument that the communications fell within the exception in OEC 504-1(4)(b), the trial court ordered plaintiff to testify regarding communications with her treating doctor. Plaintiff then petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court for a peremptory writ of mandamus, seeking to have the trial court’s order vacated. The Supreme Court found the limitation in OEC 504-1(4)(b) applied only when the physical examination occurred under the authority provided in ORCP 44 and that, on this record, the limitation on the physician-patient privilege did not apply. Accordingly, the Court granted a peremptory writ of mandamus. View "Hodges v. Oak Tree Realtors, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Kimberli Ransom, the relator and petitioner in this mandamus proceeding, filed a medical negligence action alleging that two radiologists employed by Radiology Specialists of the Northwest (defendant) were negligent in reading her imaging studies when they examined them in 2013. In 2016, during discovery in that underlying action, plaintiff took the depositions of the radiologists. The radiologists testified to the findings that they had made after examining plaintiff’s imaging studies, but, when plaintiff showed the radiologists the studies, they testified that they had no independent memory of reviewing them. When plaintiff then asked the radiologists to tell her what they could now see in those studies, defense counsel instructed the radiologists not to answer. Defense counsel took the position that those questions called for “expert testimony” that was not discoverable under ORCP 36 B. Defense counsel also argued that those questions impermissibly invaded the attorney client privilege set out in OEC 503. Plaintiff filed a motion to compel discovery and sought an order allowing her to ask the radiologists about their current “knowledge and ability to read and interpret” the imaging studies. The trial court denied plaintiff’s motion, and she petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus requiring the trial court to grant her motion, or, in the alternative, show cause why it had not done so. The Supreme Court issued the writ; the trial court declined to change its ruling. The Supreme Court concluded the questions that plaintiff asked the radiologists about what they saw in plaintiff’s imaging studies in 2016 were relevant under ORCP 36 B; they were reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence about the radiologists’ treatment of plaintiff in 2013 and what they perceived and knew at that time. The Court also concluded those questions did not call for impermissible “expert testimony” and did not invade the attorney client privilege. View "Ransom v. Radiology Specialists of the Northwest" on Justia Law

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Comcast Corporation challenged the Oregon Tax Court's construction of the statutory formula by which Oregon calculated the portion of its income taxable by Oregon. Based in part on those statutes, the Oregon Department of Revenue calculated that taxpayer had underpaid Oregon taxes for the tax years 2007-2009 and sent notices of deficiency, which Comcast appealed to the Tax Court. The Tax Court agreed with the department’s construction of the income-apportionment statutes and granted the department partial summary judgment on that part of Comcast's appeal. The Tax Court also entered a limited judgment to permit this appeal. After review, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded the Tax Court correctly construed the statutes that governed income-apportionment for interstate broadcasters, and affirmed the limited judgment. View "Comcast Corp. v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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This mandamus proceeding arose from a dispute about a contract’s forum-selection clause. Trinity Bank loaned money to Apex, a drilling company. Michael Lachner, a part owner of Apex and the relator in this case, signed a personal guaranty of the loan. Apex defaulted on the loan, and Lachner defaulted on the guaranty. Trinity filed an action asserting separate breach of contract claims against Apex (on the loan) and Lachner (on the guaranty). Apex made no appearance, and a default judgment was entered against it. Lachner filed a motion to dismiss the action against him under ORCP 21 A(1), because the action was not filed in San Francisco as required by the forum-selection clause. Neither party disputed the meaning of the forum-selection clause, only whether it should be enforced. The trial court denied the motion, without making any findings or conclusions of law, stating that it “ha[d] discretion in [the] matter.” After review of the clause at issue, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded the clause should be enforced. The Court found none of the circumstances identified in Roberts v. TriQuint Semiconductor, Inc., 364 P3d 328 (2015) (as grounds for invalidating a contractual forum-selection clause) were present here. “Trinity’s objections amount to little more than dissatisfaction with the forum selection clause. The trial court’s factual findings indicate that Oregon might be a marginally more convenient place than California to litigate the case, but that is not the applicable legal standard. . . . As counsel for Trinity conceded at oral argument, it is not unfair or unreasonable to litigate the case in California. For that reason, the trial court did not have discretion to deny Lachner’s ORCP 21A (1) motion to dismiss based on the forum-selection clause: The law required the court to dismiss the action. It was legal error not to do so.” A peremptory writ of mandamus issued. View "Trinity v. Apex Directional Drilling LLC" on Justia Law

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The Oregon Supreme Court previously denied employer Shearer's Foods' petition for review in this workers’ compensation case, but addressed claimant William Hoffnagle's petition for an award of attorney fees for time that his counsel spent in response to employer’s unsuccessful petition for review. Employer objected that the Supreme Court lacked authority to award fees and also objects to the amount of requested fee. Although the Supreme Court often resolved attorney fee petitions by order rather than written opinion, employer’s objection to the Supreme Court's authority to award fees presented a legal issue that was appropriately resolved by opinion. Employer insisted the Oregon legislature had not authorized an award of fees for work that a claimant’s attorney performs in response to an unsuccessful petition for review; employer did not dispute that, after a series of amendments, ORS 656.386 specified a claimant who prevails against a denial was entitled to an award of attorney fees for work performed at every other stage of the case, including in the Supreme Court, if the Supreme Court addressed the merits of the case. "Employer offers no reason why the legislature would have intentionally created that one carve-out to what is otherwise a comprehensive authorization of fees when a claimant relies on counsel to finally prevail against the denial of a claim. Indeed, such a carve- out would be incompatible with what we have described as 'a broad statement of a legislative policy' reflected in ORS 656.386, 'that prevailing claimants’ attorneys shall receive reasonable compensation for their representation.'" The petition for attorney fees was allowed. Claimant was awarded $2,200 as attorney fees on review. View "Shearer's Foods v. Hoffnagle" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals certified a question of Oregon law to the Oregon Supreme Court. At issue is the correct interpretation of ORS 30.905(2), which placed limits on the time-frame for initiating a product liability civil action for personal injury or property damage. Oregon resident Aline Miller owned a Ford Escape, which was manufactured in June 2001 in the State of Missouri. The Escape was first sold to a consumer in September 2001. In May 2012, the Escape caught fire while parked in Miller’s garage, allegedly due to a faulty sensor in the engine compartment. The fire spread from Miller’s garage to her home, causing significant property damage. Miller also fractured her heel as she fled the fire. Oregon’s statute of repose for product liability actions provides that an action “must be commenced before the later of *** [t]en years after the date on which the product was first purchased *** or *** [t]he expiration of any statute of repose for an equivalent civil action in the state in which the product was manufactured.” ORS 30.905(2). The certified question asked if the state of manufacture had no statute of repose for actions equivalent to an Oregon product liability action, was a product liability action in Oregon subject to any statute of repose? The Oregon Court answered in the negative: under ORS 30.905(2), when an Oregon product liability action involves a product that was manufactured in a state that has no statute of repose for an equivalent civil action, then the action in Oregon also was not subject to a statute of repose. View "Miller v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law

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Initiative Petition (IP) 28, if enacted, would modify Article I, section 8, of the Oregon Constitution to permit either a legislative body or the people exercising their initiative power to regulate campaign contributions and expenditures. In this case’s first trip to the Oregon Supreme Court, the ballot title for IP 28 the Attorney General for modification. The Attorney General filed a modified ballot title, and the two sets of petitioners who challenged the original ballot title challenged the modified title. Among other things, petitioners challenged the ballot title’s unqualified use of the word “regulate.” They noted, and we agreed, that “the word ‘regulate,’ when used in the context of regulating expressive activity, can encompass a range of different types of regulations.” Petitioners objected to the modified ballot title, arguing among other things that it failed to comply with the Supreme Court’s opinion because it did not signal that “regulate” was undefined. The Supreme Court agreed that the changes the Attorney General made in the caption and “yes” result statement were not sufficient. “We appreciate the difficulty that the Attorney General faces in trying to accurately describe the nuances of complex measures in a limited amount of words. However, we reiterate what we previously said: the caption and the ‘yes’ result statement should state that the word regulate is undefined.” The modified ballot title was referred to the Attorney General for modification. View "Markley/Lutz v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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Petitioner ACN Opportunity, LLC (ACN) sold satellite television, telephone, internet, and home security services, as well as some goods related to those services, through a network of direct-to-consumer sellers that it calls “independent business owners” (IBOs). The Employment Department determined that ACN was an employer and thus was required to pay unemployment insurance tax on earnings that ACN paid to the IBOs for their sales work. An administrative law judge (ALJ) affirmed that determination, concluding that the IBOs did not fall within the exemption from employment under ORS 657.087(2) and were not independent contractors under ORS 670.600. ACN appealed the department’s final order, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Oregon Supreme Court accepted review of this case primarily to address the statutory interpretation questions that this case presented. First, the Court concluded the IBOs did not qualify as independent contractors, because ACN failed to establish that the IBOs were customarily engaged in an independently established business. In reaching that conclusion, (1) the Court construed “maintains a business location” in ORS 670.600(3)(a) as the Court of Appeals did, and (2) the Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals that the IBOs lacked the required authority to hire others to provide services, as provided in ORS 670.600(3)(e). Finally, the Supreme Court rejected ACN’s reading of the in-home sales exemption from employment in ORS 657.087(2) and concluded the IBOs do not fall within that exemption. As a result, the Court of Appeals’ decision and the final order of the ALJ were affirmed. View "ACN Opportunity, LLC v. Employment Dept." on Justia Law

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Two sets of petitioners challenged the Oregon Attorney General’s certified ballot title for Initiative Petition 33 (2018) (IP 33). If adopted, IP 33 would require that “government employee unions” annually report certain information to the Secretary of State, primarily how dues would be spent on union administration. Chief petitioners Schworak and Mitchell challenged the summary, while petitioners Lutz and Schwartz challenged all parts of the certified ballot title. After reviewing the petitioners’ arguments, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that the proposed caption, the “no” result statement, and the summary did not substantially comply and must be modified. The “yes” result statement did substantially comply and did not require modification. View "Lutzv. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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Two sets of petitioners challenged the Oregon Attorney General’s certified ballot title for Initiative Petition 33 (2018) (IP 33). If adopted, IP 33 would require that “government employee unions” annually report certain information to the Secretary of State, primarily how dues would be spent on union administration. Chief petitioners Schworak and Mitchell challenged the summary, while petitioners Lutz and Schwartz challenged all parts of the certified ballot title. After reviewing the petitioners’ arguments, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that the proposed caption, the “no” result statement, and the summary did not substantially comply and must be modified. The “yes” result statement did substantially comply and did not require modification. View "Lutzv. Rosenblum" on Justia Law