Oregon Case Law Update: Oregon Supreme Court Limits Claims Based on Abuse of Vulnerable Persons

Bill Taaffe

Oregon Case Law Update: Oregon Supreme Court Limits Claims Based on Abuse of Vulnerable Persons

From the desk of Bill Taaffe: Oregon’s statute on abuse of vulnerable persons (ORS 124.110)—here, elderly persons—provides plaintiffs with a claim against a person who wrongfully, or in bad faith, withholds a vulnerable person’s money or property.  The statute also provides for treble damages, giving the judge or jury the discretion to award an “amount equal to three times all economic damages.”  But will the statute apply in a situation where the plaintiff alleges that an insurance company delayed processing claims in bad faith and refused to pay the plaintiff full benefits owed under the policy?  Read on to find out.

Claims Pointer: In this case arising out of a dispute over healthcare insurance benefits, the Oregon Supreme Court held that the statute on elder financial abuse does not provide plaintiff with a claim against the insurance company for delaying the processing of claims and refusing to pay full benefits owed under the policy.  This case serves as an important clarification on the scope of Oregon’s statute on elder financial abuse, making it clear that the statute does not apply to claims against insurance companies for denying benefits.

Bates v. Bankers Life and Casualty Co., 362 Or 337 (2018)

In this case, Plaintiffs Lorraine Bates and Charles Ehrman Bates (“Plaintiffs”) purchased long-term healthcare insurance policies sold by Bankers Life and Casualty Company and its parent company (collectively “Bankers”).  Plaintiffs later brought claims in federal district court against Bankers for elder financial abuse pursuant to ORS 124.110(1)(b).  In support of their claims, Plaintiffs alleged that Bankers “developed” procedures to delay and deny insurance claims in bad faith, such as “failing to answer phone calls, losing documents, [and] denying claims without notifying policyholders.” Plaintiffs contended that as a...

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