J. M., Plaintiff-Appellant,
OREGON YOUTH AUTHORITY, a state agency; and Gary Lawhead, individually, Defendants-Respondents, and Richard HILL, individually; and Frank James Milligan, individually, Defendants.
and Submitted August 15, 2017
County Circuit Court 14C15773; Claudia M. Burton, Judge.
Steinman argued the cause for appellant. With him on the
briefs was Scott J. Aldworth.
Peenesh Shah, Assistant Attorney General, argued the cause
for respondents. With him on the brief were Ellen F.
Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor
Ortega, Presiding Judge, and Garrett, Judge, and Powers,
appeals the trial court's grant of defendant's motion
for summary judgment, arguing that the trial court erred by
declining to follow the Oregon Supreme Court's rule from
T. R. v. Boy Scouts of America, 344 Or. 282, 181
P.3d 758, cert den, 555 U.S. 825 (2008) that the
statute of limitations begins to run on a claim under 42 USC
section 1983 when the claim is discovered. The trial court
instead followed cases from lower federal courts that applied
a different accrual rule. Defendant argues that, although
lower federal court decisions do not bind state courts, the
trial court's decision was nonetheless correct in light
[288 Or. 643] of Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 127
S.Ct. 1091, 166 L.Ed.2d 973 (2007), a United States Supreme
Court decision that purportedly controls over T. R .
Held: The trial court erred in declining to apply
T. R . Wallace does not control over T.
R . because Wallace did not foreclose a
discovery accrual rule for plaintiff's section 1983
Or. 644] GARRETT, J.
sole issue in this appeal is whether the trial court erred by
declining to follow the Oregon Supreme Court's rule that
the two-year statute of limitations begins to run on a claim
under 42 USC section 1983 when the claim is discovered. In
reliance on cases from the lower federal courts, the trial
court concluded that the statute of limitations begins to run
at the time of injury. The court consequently granted
defendant Lawhead's motion for summary judgment and
dismissed plaintiff's claims alleging a sexual assault
that occurred 16 years before the complaint was filed. On
appeal, plaintiff argues that the court erred by relying on
case law from the lower federal courts rather than
controlling authority from the Oregon Supreme Court. We agree
with plaintiff, and reverse.
review the trial court's grant of summary judgment for
legal error, viewing all facts and reasonable inferences in
the light most favorable to the nonmoving party to determine
whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law. ORCP 47 C; Jones v. General Motors Corp.,
325 Or. 404, 408, 939 P.2d 608 (1997). We state the facts in
accordance with that standard.
was a juvenile residing at an Oregon Youth Authority facility
when he was sexually abused by a facility employee. It was
not until 14 years later, in June 2012, that plaintiff
learned that defendant Lawhead may have played a role in
causing his abuse. Within two years of that discovery,
plaintiff brought this action against Lawhead under 42 USC
moved for summary judgment on the basis that plaintiff's
section 1983 claims were untimely under the two-year statute
of limitations set out in ORS 12.110(1). Lawhead relied on
lower federal court decisions applying the "injury
accrual rule, " under which the statute of limitations
begins to run at the time of injury. See, e.g., V.T. v.
City of Medford, Or., No l:09-CV-03007-PA, WL 300270
[288 Or. 645] at *2-3 (D Or Jan 22, 2015); Matheny v.
Clackamas Cty., No 3:10-CV-1574-BR, WL 171015 at *n 3-4
(D Or Jan 20, 2012). Plaintiff responded by directing the
court to T. R. v. Boy Scouts of America. 344 Or.
282, 181 P.3d 758, cert den, 555 U.S. 825 (2008), in
which the Oregon Supreme Court held that the statute of
limitations for section 1983 claims does not begin to run
until the plaintiff discovers the claim (the "discovery
trial court, concluding that it was bound by federal court
precedent in the interpretation of a federal statute, ruled
that plaintiffs ...