Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court
Dept. of Human Services v. T. J. N.
In the case before the Supreme Court of the State of Oregon, the parents of three children under the jurisdiction of the Department of Human Services (DHS) appealed the juvenile court's decision to change the placement preference for their children from the mother's home to foster care. However, while the appeal was pending in the Court of Appeals, the juvenile court issued additional decisions determining that substitute care was still the appropriate placement preference for the children. The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal as moot due to these subsequent judgments, ruling that it could not conclude without speculation that the challenged judgments would have a practical effect on the parents' rights. The Supreme Court of the State of Oregon reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals, finding that the Court of Appeals had incorrectly placed the burden on the parents to prove that the appeal was not moot, rather than on DHS to prove that it was. However, the Supreme Court found that the juvenile court's subsequent dismissal of the dependency cases altogether did render the appeals moot, as the parents and the children were no longer wards of the court and the original substitute-care placement determination no longer had a practical effect on the parties. The Supreme Court therefore dismissed the appeals as moot. View "Dept. of Human Services v. T. J. N." on Justia Law
Marshall v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP
At issue in this case is whether ORS 12.115(1) applied to actions in which plaintiffs allege their attorney negligently caused injury consisting solely of financial loss—here, the cost to plaintiffs of attempting to defend themselves against a claim for unpaid federal taxes and the anticipated cost of paying that tax liability. To this, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded the legislature intended the phrase “negligent injury to person or property” in ORS 12.115(1) to include negligence claims seeking to recover for the kind of injury to economic interests that plaintiffs have alleged. View "Marshall v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP" on Justia Law
Hill v. Johnson
The matter underlying this mandamus proceeding was a legal malpractice action brought by Plaintiff-relator Thomas Hill against his former attorney, defendant Ronald Johnson, who had represented Hill in a marriage dissolution proceeding. Hill alleged that, at the conclusion of his dissolution proceeding, Johnson signed a stipulated supplemental judgment on his behalf without his knowledge or permission. According to Hill, the stipulated supplemental judgment provided Hill’s ex-wife certain proceeds out of his pension plan that exceeded the amount to which he had previously agreed. Hill alleged that, months later, when he learned that the stipulated supplemental judgment included the disputed pension proceeds, he asked Johnson to correct it. When that was not done to Hill’s satisfaction, he hired new trial counsel, Fowler, to repair Johnson’s alleged error. Fowler moved the trial court to invalidate the supplemental judgment. The trial court denied that motion. Hill then hired appellate counsel, Daniels, to repair Johnson’s alleged error by challenging the trial court’s order on appeal. In response to Hill’s complaint, Johnson issued Hill discovery requests seeking the production of documents. Those requests sought, among other things, the complete files of Fowler and Daniels related to their representations of Hill in the dissolution matter as well as documents related to any other attorney whom Hill had contacted to represent him in the dissolution proceeding, regardless of whether Hill had retained the contacted attorney. The issue presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review was to define one boundary to the breach-of-duty exception to attorney-client privilege. Based on the text, context, and legislative history of OEC 503(4)(c), the Court concluded the breach-of-duty exception applied only to communications between the parties directly involved in the alleged breach. The trial court therefore erred when it applied the breach-of-duty exception to communications beyond that scope. View "Hill v. Johnson" on Justia Law
Larsen v. Selmet, Inc.
Plaintifff Pattyann Larsen filed employment discrimination and other claims against her former employer shortly after her debts had been discharged by the federal bankruptcy court, but she had failed to list those claims as assets in her bankruptcy case. The trial court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that the bankruptcy trustee—not plaintiff— was the real party in interest. The court then denied plaintiff’s motion to substitute the bankruptcy trustee as plaintiff and dismissed the case based on its conclusion that plaintiff’s attempt to pursue this action in her own name was not an “honest and understandable mistake.” The Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that the trial court had not abused its discretion in denying substitution. THe Oregon Supreme Court reversed: under ORCP 26 A, a motion to substitute the real party in interest as the plaintiff, if granted, would require plaintiff to amend the complaint under ORCP 23 A. “We have interpreted the standard specified in that rule—leave to amend ‘shall be freely given when justice so requires’—to mean that leave to amend should be granted absent any unfair prejudice to the nonmoving party. The text, context, and legislative history of ORCP 26 A confirm that the standards governing leave to amend the pleadings under ORCP 23 A also apply in deciding whether to allow substitution of the real party in interest under ORCP 26 A.” Defendant did not contend that it would be unfairly prejudiced if the bankruptcy trustee were to be substituted as the plaintiff in this case. The Supreme Court concluded that, because the trial court applied the wrong legal standard, it abused its discretion in denying substitution and dismissing this case. View "Larsen v. Selmet, Inc." on Justia Law
D. E. Shaw Renewable Investments, LLC v. Dept. of Rev.
At issue in this appeal was whether the Oregon Department of Revenue erred in declining to reduce the assessed value of taxpayer’s property for tax years 2018-2019 and 2019-2020. After persuading the Department that the valuation methodology it used to assess the property in 2020-2021 was flawed, the taxpayer asked the Department to use the corrected methodology to re-assess the two previous tax years. The Department denied the request, finding the statute the taxpayer used as grounds, ORS 306.115, did not authorize the Department to change its value opinion for the earlier tax years because another statute, ORS 308.624(4), expressly precluded the Department from making that change. The Oregon Tax Court agreed with the Department, and the taxpayer appealed, contending the Department and Tax Court misinterpreted the applicable statutes. The Oregon Supreme Court found no misinterpretation and affirmed. View "D. E. Shaw Renewable Investments, LLC v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law
Woodland v. Dept. of Rev.
Taxpayer Walter Woodland appealed the Oregon Department of Revenue’s assessment of $116 in interest for unpaid estimated taxes in 2019. During the pendency of that appeal, the department invalidated the assessment and agreed that taxpayer did not owe that interest. The Regular Division of the Oregon Tax Court accordingly dismissed taxpayer’s appeal as moot. The Oregon Supreme Court affirmed. View "Woodland v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law
Shepard Investment Group LLC v. Ormandy
In a forceable entry and detainer (FED) action, the Oregon Supreme Court was asked to determine the proper calculation of damages that could be awarded to a tenant, following multiple instances of landlord noncompliance with certain utility billing requirements that repeated each month, over a series of months. After plaintiff (landlord) brought an FED action against defendant (tenant) to recover possession of the landlord’s premises, tenant alleged a counterclaim that landlord had failed to comply with certain utility billing requirements found in ORS 90.315(4)(b). The trial court agreed with tenant, concluding that landlord had committed 12 separate violations—one per month over the 12 months within the one-year statute of limitations that governed Oregon Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (ORLTA) actions, and awarded tenant statutory damages in an amount equal to 12 months of rent. On landlord’s appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the plain text of ORS 90.315(4)(f) showed that the legislature had not intended for each landlord billing violation to be subject to a separate sanction. The Oregon Supreme Court concurred with the appellate court and affirmed. View "Shepard Investment Group LLC v. Ormandy" on Justia Law
Clark v. Eddie Bauer LLC
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit certified a question of law to the Oregon Supreme Court. Defendants Eddie Bauer LLC and Eddie Bauer Parent, LLC, operate the Eddie Bauer Outlet chain of stores, where they sell branded clothing. More than 90 percent of the products offered at the outlet stores are manufactured solely for sale at the outlet stores and were not sold elsewhere. Defendants advertised clothing at the Eddie Bauer Outlet stores as being sold at a substantial discount; with limited exceptions, the clothing was never sold at the “list” price. In 2017, plaintiff Susan Clark purchased two articles of clothing from one of defendants’ outlet stores in Oregon. Plaintiff filed a complaint in federal district court, alleging that defendants had violated multiple provisions of the UTPA, including, among others, ORS 646.608(1)(j) (making false or misleading representations of fact concerning the reasons for, existence of, or amounts of price reductions), and ORS 646.608(1)(ee) (advertising price comparisons without conspicuously identifying the origin of the price the seller is comparing to the current price). Plaintiff alleged she had been fraudulently induced to buy those garments by defendants’ false representation that she was buying them at a bargain price. Defendants moved to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint on the ground that it failed to allege an “ascertainable loss of money or property,” as required of a complainant pursuing a private right of action under the UTPA. The federal appellate court asked the Supreme Court whether a consumer suffered an "ascertainable loss" when the consumer purchased a product that the consumer would not have purchased at the price that the consumer paid but for a violation of [ORS] 646.608(1)(e), (i), (j), (ee), or (u), if the violation arose from a representation about the product’s price, comparative price, or price history, but not about the character or quality of the product itself. The Oregon Court answered the Ninth Circuit's question in the affirmative. View "Clark v. Eddie Bauer LLC" on Justia Law
Martineau v. McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center
In 2014, decedent Aaron Martineau, age 28, arrived at the McKenzie-Willamette Hospital emergency room, complaining of sudden onset chest pain, shortness of breath, and other symptoms. He was seen by a physician assistant and by a physician, defendant Gary Josephsen, M.D.; both worked for defendant Doctor’s Emergency Room Corporation, P.C. (collectively, the ER defendants). Defendants did not adequately review the x-ray or refer decedent for further imaging or other tests to rule out or confirm the presence of serious cardiovascular or cardiopulmonary conditions. Instead, they diagnosed him with noncardiac chest pain and discharged him from the hospital. Approximately 24 hours after being discharged, decedent died from an aortic dissection in his heart. In this wrongful death action, two issues were presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review: (1) whether the trial court erred when it instructed the jury that physicians “are not negligent merely because their efforts were unsuccessful” and that a physician “does not guarantee a good result by undertaking to perform a service;” and (2) whether plaintiff had alleged a lost chance claim under Oregon’s survival statute, ORS 30.075, that was separately cognizable from her wrongful death claim under ORS 30.020. The trial court dismissed plaintiff’s lost chance claim before trial. Later, when submitting the wrongful death claim to the jury at the close of trial, the court included the challenged instruction—which was taken from Uniform Civil Jury Instruction (UCJI) 44.03 at defendants’ request—in its instructions to the jury. After the jury returned a verdict in defendants’ favor, plaintiff appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed, concluding the trial court had erred in dismissing plaintiff’s lost chance claim and by including UCJI 44.03 in the jury instructions. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded plaintiff did not allege a lost chance claim that was cognizable under Oregon law, and, further, the trial court did not err when it included UCJI 44.03 in the jury instructions. The Court therefore reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the trial court. View "Martineau v. McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center" on Justia Law
Bundy v. NuStar GP LLC, et al.
At issue in this case was whether the Oregon legislature intended to create an exception to ORS 656.018, the so-called “exclusive remedy” provision of the Workers’ Compensation Law, for injured workers whose claims have been deemed noncompensable on “major contributing cause” grounds. While employed by defendant Shore Terminals, LLC as a terminal operator, plaintiff Danny Bundy was assigned to stay and monitor the air quality from malfunctioning machinery without being given safety equipment, and he was exposed to dangerous levels of diesel, gasoline and ethanol fumes. After that incident, defendant initially accepted a workers’ compensation claim for "non-disabling exposure to gasoline vapors." Later, plaintiff asked defendant to accept and pay compensation for additional conditions arising out of the same incident, including "somatization disorder" and "undifferentiated somatoform disorder." Defendant specified that it was treating each of plaintiff’s subsequent requests as a "consequential condition claim" and was denying those claims on the basis that plaintiff’s work exposure was not the major contributing cause of the subsequent conditions. Plaintiff challenged those denials through the workers’ compensation system, but he was unable to establish that the work incident was the major contributing cause of his somatoform disorders. The Workers’ Compensation Board ultimately issued a final order determining that the disorders were not compensable conditions because plaintiff failed to establish that his work-related incident was the major contributing cause. Plaintiff acknowledged that the Workers’ Compensation Law generally immunized covered employers against civil liability for injuries arising out of a worker’s employment. Plaintiff argued, however, that his case fell within a statutory exception to that rule and that the trial court and Court of Appeals, both of which ruled in defendant’s favor on that legal question, erred in concluding otherwise. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded that plaintiff’s statutory argument failed, and that the trial court and Court of Appeals therefore did not err. View "Bundy v. NuStar GP LLC, et al." on Justia Law