Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court

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Pursuant to ORCP 54 B(1), the trial court dismissed plaintiff’s wrongful death action because it found that plaintiff’s counsel willfully failed to comply with two court orders and that, as a result, dismissal was an appropriate sanction. The Court of Appeals affirmed the resulting judgment without opinion. The Oregon Supreme Court allowed plaintiff’s petition for review to clarify the standard that applies when a trial court dismisses an action pursuant to ORCP 54 B(1) for failing to comply with a court order. The Court recognized the difficulty posed by counsel who, for one reason or another, seemed unable to move a case forward in a fair and efficient way. "We trust, however, that ordinarily courts will be able to take remedial steps and impose sanctions short of dismissal when faced with such problems." On this record, the Court could not say that the trial court’s dismissal was supported by evidence that plaintiff’s counsel willfully failed to comply with the court’s orders. The Court accordingly reversed the trial court’s judgment and the Court of Appeals decision and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Lang v. Rogue Valley Medical Center" on Justia Law

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The question presented was whether Oregon law permitted a plaintiff, who suffered an adverse medical outcome resulting in physical harm, to state a common-law medical negligence claim by alleging that the defendant negligently caused a loss of his chance at recovery. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded, as a matter of first impression, that a medical negligence claim based on a loss-of-chance theory of injury in the circumstances presented was cognizable under Oregon common law. View "Smith v. Providence Health & Services" on Justia Law

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This case was an original mandamus proceeding, arising from a medical negligence action in which plaintiff-relator sought damages for physical injuries. Plaintiff filed suit seeking damages for physical injuries suffered as the result of a foot surgery that, as alleged in his complaint, left him with "severe and permanent injury to his right foot and ankle leaving him unable to use his foot and suffering constant pain and numbness." The issue on appeal was whether plaintiff, who, without objection by his counsel, answered questions in a discovery deposition about the treatment of his physical condition by health care providers, thereby waived his physician-patient privilege under OEC 511, so as to allow pretrial discovery depositions of those health care providers. The Oregon Supreme Court court allowed plaintiff’s petition for an alternative writ of mandamus, in which he challenged a circuit court order that allowed the providers’ depositions. After review, the Court concluded that, by answering questions about his treatment at his discovery deposition, plaintiff did not "offer" (and thereby voluntarily disclose) that testimony so as to waive his privilege. Accordingly, the Court issued a peremptory writ of mandamus directing the circuit court to vacate its order allowing the depositions. View "Barrier v. Beaman" on Justia Law

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The question this case presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review was whether a statute limiting a state employee’s tort liability violated either the remedy clause of Article I, section 10, of the Oregon Constitution or the jury trial clauses of Article I, section 17, and Article VII (Amended), section 3, of the Oregon Constitution. The trial court held that the statute, as applied to the state employee, violated each of those provisions and entered a limited judgment against the employee for the full amount of the jury’s verdict. Plaintiff’s six-month-old son developed a cancerous mass on his liver. Two doctors at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) participated in an operation to remove the mass: Dr. Harrison, a specialist in pediatric surgery, and Dr. Durant, a pediatric surgical fellow in training. During the operation, the doctors inadvertently transected blood vessels going to the child’s liver, resulting in the child having to undergo a liver transplant, removal of his spleen, additional surgeries, and lifetime monitoring due to the risks resulting from the doctors’ act. Plaintiff brought this action on her son’s behalf against Harrison, Durant, OHSU, and Pediatric Surgical Associates, P.C. The trial court granted Pediatric Surgical Associates’ motion for summary judgment, and dismissed Durant as a result of an agreement among plaintiff, OHSU, and Harrison. Pursuant to that agreement, Harrison and OHSU admitted liability for the child’s injuries and plaintiff’s case against Harrison and OHSU went to the jury to determine the amount of the child’s damages. The jury found that plaintiff’s son had sustained and will sustain economic damages of $6,071,190.38 and noneconomic damages of $6,000,000. After the jury returned its verdict, OHSU and Harrison filed a motion to reduce the jury’s verdict to $3,000,000 based on the Oregon Tort Claims Act. The trial court granted the motion as to OHSU. The trial court, however, denied the motion as to Harrison. Harrison appealed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, concluding that applying the Tort Claims Act limit to plaintiff’s claim against defendant did not violate the remedy clause in Article I, section 10, nor does giving effect to that limit violate the jury trial clauses in Article I, section 17, or Article VII (Amended), section 3. View "Horton v. OHSU" on Justia Law

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The Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists (board) issued a final order suspending petitioner Rachel Weldon's license for two years and assessed costs against her. Petitioner asked the board to stay enforcement of that order pending judicial review. A few months later, the board issued an amended final order of suspension. Concluding that petitioner had not demonstrated irreparable harm and had failed to show a colorable claim of error, and that substantial public harm would result if it entered a stay, the board also entered a final order denying petitioner's request for a stay. Petitioner appealed the board's order assessing the fine and denying the stay. Petitioner also asked the Court of Appeals to enter an emergency stay to permit her to continue to practice until appellate court proceedings were complete. The Appellate Commissioner granted petitioner a temporary stay pending the board's response to petitioner's motion. In its response, the board asserted that ORS 676.210 precluded the Court of Appeals from entering a stay. The commissioner accepted the board's understanding of ORS 676.210 but, sua sponte, decided that, by precluding the exercise of the court's inherent authority to grant a stay, the statute violated the separation of powers provision of Article III, section 1, of the Oregon Constitution. The board appealed the part of the commissioner's order that declared ORS 676.210 unconstitutional. The Court of Appeals ultimately granted review of the matter and determined that petitioner demonstrated a colorable claim of error. It denied petitioner's motion for a stay and vacated that part of the appellate commissioner's order that permitted petitioner to file a supersedeas matter to stay the board's fine. Upon review of the appeals, the Supreme Court concluded that the board erred when it argued, and the Court of Appeals erred when it decided, that the Court of Appeals had no authority to issue a stay pending its decision on the merits of petitioner's appeal. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Supreme Court stayed the board's order suspending petitioner's license until the Court of Appeals issued its decision on petitioner's request. View "Weldon v. Bd. of Lic. Pro. Counselors and Therapists" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff David Eads underwent surgery performed by a Defendant Dr. Timothy Borman, a physician whose office was in a building that Defendant Salem Hospital, a limited liability company (LLC), leased to medical providers. The surgeon performed the surgery negligently, causing Plaintiff permanent and disabling injuries. Plaintiff brought this malpractice action against the LLC landlord, as well as the surgeon and others involved in his medical treatment. Plaintiff pursued the action against the LLC on a theory of apparent agency. Specifically, Plaintiff's theory was that, through the signage on the building and other representations, the LLC created the appearance that the building housed a group medical entity of which Plaintiff's surgeon was an agent. The trial court granted summary judgment for the LLC, concluding that the evidence was legally insufficient to hold the LLC vicariously liable for the surgeon's negligence on an apparent agency theory. The Court of Appeals agreed, and affirmed. The Supreme Court granted Plaintiff's petition for review to resolve when a nonnegligent person or entity may be held vicariously liable on an apparent agency theory for physical injuries negligently inflicted by a medical professional. The Court concluded that, for such liability to arise, the injured party must have dealt with the negligent medical professional based on a reasonable belief, traceable to the putative principal's conduct or representations, that the medical professional was the principal's employee or was otherwise subject to the principal's right of control in providing the medical services that caused the injured party's injury. View "Eads v. Borman" on Justia Law