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State v. Zuniga

Court of Appeals of Oregon

November 8, 2017

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
ALICIA RAMOS ZUNIGA, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued and Submitted August 8, 2017

         Malheur County Circuit Court 15CR1253; Lung S. Hung, Judge.

          Thomas A. Hill argued the cause and fled the brief for appellant.

          Taylor Housley, Certifed Law Student, argued the cause for respondent. On the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General, and Greg Rios, Assistant Attorney General.

          Before Egan, Presiding Judge, and DeHoog, Judge, and Aoyagi, Judge.

         Case Summary: Defendant was convicted of reckless driving and careless driving in connection with a car accident that resulted in serious injuries to another driver. The trial court ordered defendant to pay $596, 472.46 in restitution to the other driver's health insurer for medical expenses paid on the other driver's behalf. On appeal, defendant challenges the restitution order, contending that the restitution award is unlawful under ORS 137.106, a statute that provides for the payment of restitution to "victims" as defined in ORS 137.103. Held: The trial court did not err in awarding restitution to the other driver's health insurer. Based on the text, context, and legislative history of the statutes, the other driver is a "victim" within the meaning of ORS 137.103(4)(a) and her health insurer is therefore a victim under ORS 137.103(4)(d).

         [288 Or.App. 743] AOYAGI, J.

         Defendant was convicted of reckless driving and careless driving, in connection with a car accident that seriously injured another driver, Reed. The trial court ordered defendant to pay $596, 472.46 to Reed's health insurer as restitution for Reed's medical bills. Defendant contends that the restitution award is unlawful under ORS 137.106, a statute that provides for the payment of restitution to "victims" as defined in ORS 137.103. We affirm.

         The relevant facts are undisputed. On the morning of January 7, 2015, defendant was driving a vehicle in Malheur County. While attempting to pass another vehicle, she collided head-on with a vehicle driven by Reed. Reed was seriously injured in the collision and incurred substantial medical bills.

         Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of reckless driving, ORS 811.140, which is a misdemeanor, and one count of careless driving, ORS 811.135, which is a violation. The state asked that defendant be ordered to pay restitution to Reed's health insurer, Moda Insurance (Moda), in the amount of $596, 472.46, for medical expenses incurred by Reed and paid by Moda. Defendant opposed the request, arguing that her crimes were not committed "against" Reed within the meaning of ORS 137.103(4)(a) and that Moda therefore had no right to restitution under ORS 137.103 (4)(d). After a hearing, the trial court entered an amended judgment of conviction, ordering defendant to pay $596, 472.46 to Moda as restitution.

         Whether ORS 137.106 authorizes the restitution award to Moda is a question of statutory construction. As such, we examine the statutory text, context, and any helpful legislative history to determine the legislative intent. State v. Gaines. 346 Or. 160, 171-72, 206 P.3d 1042 (2009). The correct construction of a statute is a question of law. Karjalainen v. Curtis Johnston & Penny wise. Inc., 208 Or.App. 674, 681, 146 P.3d 336 (2006), rev den, 342 Or. 473 (2007) ("[S]tatutes are-by definition-law, and their interpretation always is a question of law").

         [288 Or.App. 744] ORS 137.106(1)(a) provides for a trial court to order a defendant to pay restitution to a "victim" who has suffered economic damages as a result of the defendant's crime. The statute states, in relevant part:

"When a person is convicted of a crime, or a violation as described in ORS 153.008, that has resulted in economic damages, the district attorney shall investigate and present to the court, at the time of sentencing or within 90 days after entry of the judgment, evidence of the nature and amount of the damages. * * * If the court finds from the evidence presented that a victim suffered economic damages, in addition to any other sanction it may impose, the court shall enter a judgment or supplemental judgment requiring that the defendant pay the victim restitution in a specific amount that equals the full amount of the victim's economic damages as determined by the court."

(Emphases added.)

         ORS 137.103(4) defines "victim, " as used in ORS ...


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