Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court
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This case arose out of the explosion of a hydrogen generator at the campus of HP, Inc., which severely injured plaintiff William Cox. After Cox and his wife filed suit against HP in an Oregon court, HP brought a third-party claim against relator, TÜV Rheinland of North America, Inc (TÜV). HP alleged TÜV—a Delaware company that tests and certified products manufactured by others as conforming to established industry safety standards—had negligently certified the design of the generator at issue in this case. TÜV sought to dismiss HP’s claim against TÜV for lack of personal jurisdiction. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss, and TÜV sought an alternative writ of mandamus, which the Oregon Supreme Court allowed. There was no suggestion that TÜV had the kind of “continuous operations” within Oregon that were “so substantial and of such a nature” as to give rise to general personal jurisdiction. But there also was no dispute that TÜV had some contacts with Oregon that could support the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over TÜV in some case. That posture focused the dispute in this case on the limits of what has been called the “relatedness” requirement of specific personal jurisdiction. The U.S. Supreme Court explored the requirement in Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial Dist. Court, 141 S Ct 1017 (2021), ultimately concluding that Ford’s extensive activities in the forum states created a “relationship among the defendant, the forums, and the litigation” that was “close enough to support specific jurisdiction.” "The Oregon Court surmised the question in this case was whether there was a connection between TÜV’s Oregon activities and HP’s claim against TÜV that was sufficient to permit Oregon to exercise specific personal jurisdiction over TÜV. Under the specific facts of this case, the Oregon Court concluded Oregon lacked personal jurisdiction to resolve HP’s claim against TÜV. Accordingly, it issued a peremptory writ of mandamus directing the trial court to dismiss the claim against TÜV. View "Cox v. HP Inc." on Justia Law

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In a workers’ compensation case, the issue presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review centered on the scope of an employer’s obligation under ORS 656.262(7)(c) to reopen a closed claim for processing if a “condition is found compensable after claim closure.” The closed claim at issue here was claimant Randy Simi's accepted right rotator cuff tear, and the conditions giving rise to the dispute were supraspinatus and infraspinatus tendon tears, which claimant asked employer to accept as “new or omitted” conditions. Employer issued a denial specifying that the conditions were not compensable, but, without withdrawing the denial, employer later took the position that the tendon tears were “encompassed” within the originally accepted rotator cuff tear. That change of position caused an administrative law judge (ALJ) to determine that the tendon conditions were compensable and to set aside employer’s denial. According to claimant, that ALJ order triggered employer’s obligation under ORS 656.262(7)(c) to reopen the claim. Employer contended, however, that the legislature did not require reopening if the compensable condition at issue was “encompassed within” the already-accepted conditions, even if the employer also had denied that the condition was compensable. A majority of the Workers’ Compensation Board and a majority of the Court of Appeals panel agreed with employer, and the Supreme Court allowed review to consider this disputed question of statutory interpretation. Based on its examination of the statutory text and context, the Supreme Court concluded the legislature intended employers to reopen compensable claims for processing when a compensability denial was set aside after claim closure, including under the circumstances of this case. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals' decision was reversed. View "Simi v. LTI Inc. - Lynden Inc." on Justia Law

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Taxpayer Level 3 Communications, LLC (Level 3) challenged the Oregon Tax Court’s determination of the real market value of its tangible and intangible property for the 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 tax years. Level 3 argued that the Tax Court held that the central assessment statutory scheme permitted taxation of the entire enterprise value of the company, contrary to the wording of applicable statutes that permit taxation only of a centrally assessed corporation’s property. According to Level 3, the Tax Court applied that erroneous holding to incorrectly accept the Department of Revenue’s (the department’s) valuations of Level 3’s property for the relevant tax years. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded Level 3 misconstrued the Tax Court’s decision, and the Tax Court did not err by accepting the department’s valuations. Accordingly, the Tax Court’s judgment was affirmed. View "Level 3 Communications, LLC v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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In a shareholder derivative action, two issues were presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review: (1) whether the breach of fiduciary duty claims brought by shareholders-plaintiffs Joseph LaChapelle and James Field on behalf of Deep Photonics Corporation (DPC) against DPC directors Dong Kwan Kim, Roy Knoth, and Bruce Juhola (defendants) were properly tried to a jury, rather than to the court; and (2) whether the trial court erred in denying defendants’ motion, made during trial, to amend their answer to assert an affirmative defense against one of the claims in the complaint based on an “exculpation” provision in DPC’s certificate of incorporation. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the case was properly tried to the jury and that the trial court did not err in denying defendants’ motion to assert the exculpation defense. Therefore the Court of Appeals and the limited judgment of the trial court were affirmed. View "Deep Photonics Corp. v. LaChapelle" on Justia Law

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Various parties petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court for reconsideration of its decision in Allianz Global Risks v. ACE Property & Casualty Ins. Co., 483 P3d 1124 (2021). Petitioner on review Allianz Global Risks US Insurance Company and Allianz Underwriters Insurance Company (“Allianz”), together with respondent on review Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London and Certain London Market Insurance Companies (“London”), petitioned on two grounds: (1) that the court in one place in the opinion incorrectly characterized its earlier cases regarding the duties of an insurer to defend or indemnify its insured; and (2) that the court in several places incorrectly identified a particular entity as the “indemnitor” in several agreements discussed in the opinion. Respondent on review Con-Way filed a petition for reconsideration asserting that the court erred in holding that certain “side” agreements between Con-Way and three of its insurers were to be considered separately from the insurance policies that those companies issued to Con-Way’s subsidiary, Freightliner. The Supreme Court considered the arguments in Con-Way’s petition, and denied it: "The purpose of a rehearing is not to raise new questions or rehash old arguments, but to allow the court to correct mistakes and consider misapprehensions." As to the Allianz/London petition: the Court allowed that petition to make changes as noted. View "Allianz Global Risks v. ACE Property & Casualty Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was a passenger in a truck driven by Lorenz. The vehicles were traveling on an interstate when it began to hail and rain. A sedan ahead of the truck spun out of control and collided with the front of the truck. The passengers of the sedan required medical assistance; a third vehicle struck the back of the truck, pushing the truck into the sedan. Plaintiff was severely injured. Plaintiff filed a personal injury claim for damages, alleging the drivers of the vehicles, John Turner and Sherri Oliver, had been negligent and that the negligence of each had caused her injuries and damages. She also alleged that Turner and Oliver were underinsured and that, as a result, she was entitled to UIM benefits from her own insurance company, defendant Mutual of Enumclaw Insurance. Eventually, plaintiff settled with Turner and Oliver for a total of $175,000, and the case was dismissed as to them. This case was the second appeal in a dispute between Plaintiff and her insurance company over the limits of her Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage. Plaintiff’s policy included a limit of $500,000 for damages “resulting from any one automobile accident.” In the first trial in this case, the jury found that plaintiff’s injuries resulted in damages of $979,540. In the second trial, the jury found that plaintiff was injured, not in one, but in two, separate “accidents,” and that it could not “separate the cause” of plaintiff’s injuries between those two accidents. Consequently, the trial court awarded plaintiff the full measure of her damages, minus offsets. On appeal, the insurance company argued the trial court had erred in its instructions to the jury and should have required the jury to apportion plaintiff’s damages between the two accidents. The Court of Appeals agreed with the company and reversed. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the trial correctly instructed the jury it could find, as a matter of fact, the number of accidents that occurred and whether the cause of plaintiff's injuries could be separated between them. View "Wright v. Turner" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Oregon Supreme Court’s review centered on the nature and scope of the “exclusive original jurisdiction” that ORS 419B.100(1) conferred on the juvenile courts over specified categories of “case[s] involving a person who is under 18 years of age.” The question arose from petitioner’s challenge to a juvenile court judgment that deprived her of legal-parent status as to S, a child over whom petitioner had claimed a right to custody. According to petitioner, the court’s judgment of “nonparentage” was void for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the juvenile court did not determine that S actually fell within one of the categories specified in ORS 419B.100(1). The Court of Appeals rejected petitioner’s challenge to the judgment, and the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals. Here, it was undisputed that this case involved a child who was the subject of a petition alleging that she fell within one of those categories and requesting that the juvenile court exercise its authority to address those allegations. And it was undisputed that proceedings to address the petition were pending when the juvenile court ruled on petitioner’s parentage status. The Supreme Court concluded the allegations and relief sought in the pending petition were sufficient to bring the case within the subject matter jurisdiction of the juvenile court. View "Dept. of Human Services v. C. M. H." on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit certified a question of law to the Oregon Supreme Court concerning whether a statutory damages cap applied to an award of noneconomic damages in an unlawful employment practice action. Plaintiff Max Zweizig filed suit in the federal district court in Oregon, alleging that corporate defendants had retaliated against him and that defendant Timothy Rote had aided and abetted the corporations in violation of Oregon statutes. The jury found for plaintiff and awarded him $1,000,000 in noneconomic damages. Over plaintiff’s objection, the district court entered a judgment for only half that amount after applying the non- economic damages cap set out in ORS 31.710(1). Defendant appealed, and plaintiff cross-appealed, challenging the reduction of the noneconomic damage award. The Supreme Court determined the damages cap in ORS 31.710(1) did not apply to an award of noneconomic damages for an unlawful employment practice claim under ORS 659A.030 in which the plaintiff did not seek damages that arose out of bodily injury and instead sought damages for emotional injury. View "Zweizig v. Rote" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff submitted a motion for a new trial to the trial court on the last permissible day for filing such a document. The clerk rejected the filing for failure to pay the filing fee. Plaintiff corrected that deficiency the next day, immediately upon notification of the problem, and requested that the filing relate back to the original submission date under Uniform Trial Court Rule (UTCR) 21.080(5). The trial court, the Appellate Commissioner, and the Court of Appeals determined plaintiff’s motion was untimely, each on a different basis. After its review, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded plaintiff’s motion for a new trial was timely under UTCR 21.080(5). It therefore reversed the Court of Appeals. View "Otnes v. PCC Structurals, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Kyle Walker persuaded a jury that her public employer had wrongfully discharged her from her at-will position for blowing the whistle on what she reasonably believed to be her employer’s violations of law. The trial court had denied her employer’s motions for a directed verdict, and the court entered a judgment that awarded her damages on that claim. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that, notwithstanding the jury verdict in her favor, plaintiff’s action had not served an important public policy. The Oregon Supreme Court reversed, finding the appellate court incorrectly concluded that the threshold issue, whether plaintiff had identified an important public policy that permitted her to assert the tort of wrongful discharge, depended on whether she had reasonably believed that her employer had violated the law; instead, the Court found that threshold issue properly turned on sources of law that support the asserted public policy and whether those sources of law were tied to the acts by plaintiff that led her employer to discharge her. The Supreme Court further concluded that whether plaintiff had a reasonable belief that her employer had violated the law - the disputed element of whistleblowing on appeal - was a question of fact for the factfinder and that the record contained evidence that supported the jury’s finding. View "Walker v. Oregon Travel Information Council" on Justia Law