Oregon Case Law Update: Defendant’s Constructive Knowledge of Abuse Sufficient to Overcome Summary Judgment

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Defendant’s Constructive Knowledge of Abuse Sufficient to Overcome Summary Judgment

From the desk of Ryan McLellan: In 1995, Oregon passed a statute to protect “vulnerable” people from abuse, which, under certain circumstances, authorizes a lawsuit against the person who “knowingly” acts in such a way as to permit the physical or financial abuse of a vulnerable person.  There has remained a question, however, as to what the defendant must “know” about the circumstances to be found liable.  Read on to find out how the Oregon Supreme Court ruled on this issue.

Claims Pointer: In this case arising out of a paramedic’s sexual abuse of patients being transported by ambulance, the Oregon Supreme Court held that a claim could be maintained against an employer of an abuser if the employer “should have known” of the abuse, even if the employer did not have actual knowledge of it. The case may expand liability for the abuse of the vulnerable, including elderly, incapacitated, and in certain instances, disabled people, and it establishes a rule of which employers, their insurers, and their attorneys should be aware.

Wyers v. American Medical Response Northwest, Inc,, 360 Or 211 (August 11, 2016)

Over a span of several years, a paramedic, Lannie Haszard (“Haszard”), who was employed by American Medical Response Northwest, Inc. (“AMR”), sexually abused patents while they were being transported in AMR ambulances.  Haszard was eventually charged for his actions and, after pleading no contest, sentenced to several years in prison.

Six different plaintiffs brought civil actions against AMR under ORS 124.100(5), which authorizes 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 cases were consolidated, and AMR moved for...

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