Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Rains v. Stayton Builders Mart, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Oregon

January 4, 2018

Kevin RAINS and Mitzi Rains, Plaintiffs-Respondents,
v.
STAYTON BUILDERS MART, INC.; John Doe Lumber Supplier; John Doe Lumber Mill; and Five Star Construction, Inc., Defendants. STAYTON BUILDERS MART, INC., Third-Party Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
RSG FOREST PRODUCTS, INC., et al., Third-Party Defendants, and WEYERHAEUSER COMPANY, Third-Party Defendant-Appellant. WEYERHAEUSER COMPANY, Fourth-Party Plaintiff,
v.
RODRIGUEZ & RAINS CONSTRUCTION, an Oregon corporation, Fourth-Party Defendant. WITHERS LUMBER COMPANY, Fourth-Party Plaintiff,
v.
SELLWOOD LUMBER CO., INC., an Oregon corporation; and Weyerhaeuser Company, Fourth-Party Defendants. WESTERN INTERNATIONAL FOREST PRODUCTS, INC., Fourth-Party Plaintiff,
v.
BENITO RODRIGUEZ, KEVIN RAINS, and Rodriguez & Rains Construction, Fourth-Party Defendants. SELLWOOD LUMBER CO., INC., an Oregon corporation, Fifth-Party Plaintiff,
v.
SWANSON BROS. LUMBER CO., INC., an Oregon corporation, Fifth-Party Defendant.

         [289 Or.App. 673] Submitted on remand September 20, 2016.

          Argued on remand April 20, 2017.

         Marion County Circuit Court 06C21040; Dennis J. Graves, Judge.

         On remand from the Oregon Supreme Court, Rains v. Stayton Builders Mart, Inc., 359 Or. 610, 375 P.3d 490 (2016).

          Michael T. Stone argued the cause and fled the briefs for appellant. Sara Kobak, Michael T. Garone, W. Michael Gillette, and Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt P.C., fled the supplemental brief.

          Maureen Leonard argued the cause for respondents Kevin and Mitzi Rains. With her on the briefs were Brian Whitehead and J. Randolph Pickett.

          Thomas W. Brown argued the cause for respondent Stayton Builders Mart, Inc. With him on the brief were Nicholas E. Wheeler, Julie A. Smith, and Cosgrave Vergeer Kester LLP.

          Susan D. Marmaduke, Sharon A. Rudnick, Nathan R. Morales, and Harrang Long Gary Rudnick P.C., fled the supplemental brief amicus curiae for Oregon Liability Reform Coalition and Associated Oregon Industries.

          Nadia H. Dahab, Kathryn H. Clarke, and Stoll Stoll Berne Lokting & Shlachter PC, fled the supplemental brief amicus curiae for Oregon Trial Lawyers Association.

          [289 Or.App. 674] Before Ortega, Presiding Judge, and Egan, Chief Judge, and Garrett, Judge.

         Case Summary: The Oregon Supreme Court remanded to the Court of Appeals to determine whether, in light of Horton v. OHSU, the $500, 000 statutory cap on noneconomic damages in ORS 31.710(1) is unconstitutional when applied to plaintiffs' noneconomic damages awards. Plaintiff Kevin Rains was severely injured by the failure of a defective wood board and fled a strict products liability claim against the retailer (Stayton Builders Mart) and manufacturer (Weyerhaeuser) of the board. Kevin's wife, plaintiff Mitzi Rains, fled a loss of consortium claim. The jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiffs, and the trial court entered a limited judgment for plaintiffs that awarded Kevin $6, 272, 025 and Mitzi $759, 375. Weyerhaeuser appealed. On appeal, the Court of Appeals concluded that, despite Article I, section 17, of the Oregon Constitution, ORS 31.710(1) could be applied to limit Kevin's noneconomic damages to $500, 000, but that Mitzi's noneconomic damages award could not be so limited. After the Supreme Court accepted review of that decision, it decided Horton, which fundamentally shifted the legal framework for analyzing constitutional limitations on the legislature's ability to substantively alter or adjust a person's remedy for injuries to person, property, and reputation. Because of Horton, the Supreme Court remanded the noneconomic damages cap issue to the Court of Appeals for reconsideration. On remand, plaintiffs recognize that Horton foreclosed any argument that Article I, section 17, prohibited application of ORS 31.710(1) to their damages awards. Instead, plaintiffs argue that the remedy clause of Article I, section 10, of the Oregon Constitution precludes application of ORS 31.710(1). Weyerhaeuser asserts that plaintiffs forfeited that argument because they failed to raise it in their initial briefing on appeal. Weyerhaeuser also argues that the remedy clause does not protect Mitzi's damages award because loss of consortium is not a claim for injury to person, property, or reputation. Finally, Weyerhaeuser argues that ORS 31.710(1) provides plaintiffs with a substantial substitute remedy in the form of all of their economic damages plus $500, 000 in noneconomic damages. Held: Neither the "law of the case" doctrine, nor the "waiver rule" precluded consideration of plaintiffs' remedy clause challenge in the unique circumstances presented on remand. In addition, Mitzi's loss of consortium claim alleged an injury to person that is protected by the remedy clause. On the merits, given the nature of plaintiffs' injuries, the lack of any quid pro quo in ORS 31.710(1), and because the legislature's reason for enacting the noneconomic damages cap could not bear the weight of the dramatic reduction in noneconomic damages that the statute requires for the most grievously injured plaintiffs, reducing plaintiffs' noneconomic damages awards to $500, 000 would leave them without a "substantial" remedy as required by Article I, section 10.

         [289 Or.App. 675] ORTEGA, P. J.

         On remand from the Supreme Court, we are tasked with reconsidering whether, in light of Horton v. OHSU. 359 Or. 168, 376 P.3d 998 (2016), the $500, 000 statutory cap on noneconomic damages in ORS 31.710(1) is unconstitutional when applied to plaintiffs' noneconomic damages awards.[1]For the reasons explained below, we conclude that reducing plaintiffs' noneconomic damages awards under ORS 31.710(1) would violate the remedy clause of Article I, section 10, of the Oregon Constitution. Accordingly, we affirm the limited judgment in favor of plaintiffs.

         The relevant facts on remand are undisputed. Plaintiff Kevin Rains fell almost 16 feet to the ground when a defective wood board broke at his job site. He suffered severe injuries that resulted in paraplegia. He brought a claim of strict products liability against the retailer, Stay ton Builders Mart, and the manufacturer of the defective board, Weyerhaeuser Company. His wife, plaintiff Mitzi Rains, brought a claim for loss of consortium against those same parties. The jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiffs and found that Kevin had suffered $5, 237, 700 in economic damages and $3, 125, 000 in noneconomic damages, and that Mitzi had suffered $1, 012, 500 in noneconomic damages. The jury also found that Weyerhaeuser was 45 percent at fault, Stayton was 30 percent at fault, and Kevin was 25 percent at fault for his injuries. After trial, Weyerhaeuser moved to reduce each of plaintiffs' noneconomic damages awards to $500, 000 based on ORS 31.710(1). The trial court denied that motion, concluding that Article I, section 17, of the Oregon Constitution precluded ORS 31.710(1) from limiting noneconomic damages on plaintiffs' claims. Accordingly, the court, after accounting for Oregon's comparative-fault scheme and the jury's finding that Kevin was 25 percent at fault, entered a limited judgment awarding Kevin [289 Or.App. 676] $6, 272, 025 and Mitzi $759, 375 against Weyerhaeuser and Stayton.[2]

         Weyerhaeuser appealed the limited judgment, asserting, as relevant on remand, that the trial court had erred by not reducing plaintiffs' noneconomic damages awards under ORS 31.710(1) to $500, 000. At the time of Weyerhaeuser's appeal, existing case law dictated that the state of the common law in 1857 determined whether Article I, section 17, limited the legislature's authority to alter a cause of action or reduce the amount of a jury award. See Klutschkowski v. PeaceHealth. 354 Or. 150, 177, 311 P.3d 461 (2013) (explaining that ORS 31.710(1) violated Article I, section 17, in those classes of cases in which a jury trial was customary in 1857, or in cases of "like nature"). On appeal, we concluded that claims for strict products liability had "very little in common with the type of product liability negligence claim that existed in 1857." Rains v. Stayton Builders Mart. Inc., 264 Or.App. 636, 662, 336 P.3d 483 (2014), affd in part. rev'd in part. 359 Or. 610, 375 P.3d 490 (2016). As a result, we decided that applying ORS 31.710(1) to Kevin's claim did not violate Article I, section 17. Id. at 665. However, as to Mitzi's claim, we determined that a loss of consortium claim existed as of 1857; therefore, Article I, section 17, precluded application of the noneconomic damages cap to Mitzi's award. Id. at 666. Accordingly, we reversed and remanded plaintiffs' limited judgment for the trial court to apply ORS 31.710(1) to Kevin's damage award. Id. at 677-78.

          [289 Or.App. 677] After the Supreme Court accepted review of our decision, it issued its decision in Horton, which significantly changed the legal framework for analyzing constitutional limitations on the legislature's ability to substantively alter or adjust a person's remedy for injuries to person, property, and reputation. In Horton, the court overruled Lakin v. Senco Products. Inc., 329 Or. 62, 987 P.2d 463, modified, 329 Or. 369, 987 P.2d 476 (1999), and concluded that Article I, section 17, does not independently restrict the legislature's ability to impose a statutory damages cap on specific claims.[3] 359 Or at 244-45. In doing so, the court negated the historical analysis that we had undertaken on appeal as to whether Article I, section 17, precluded application of ORS 31.710(1) to Kevin and Mitzi's noneconomic damages awards.

         In Horton, the court also reexamined at length whether the remedy clause of Article I, section 10, of the Oregon Constitution[4] provides a substantive guarantee of a remedy in certain cases. 359 Or at 173-225. The court answered that question affirmatively, but in the process it overruled Smothers v. Gresham Transfer. Inc., 332 Or. 83, 23 P.3d 333 (2001), which had "sought to provide a definitive interpretation" of the remedy clause. Horton, 359 Or at 175. In doing so, the court reinvigorated pre-Smothers cases applying Article I, section 10, and called into question the viability of -post-Smothers Article I, section 10, cases that had relied on the Smothers construct. See Vasquez v. Double Press Mfg., Inc., 288 Or.App. 503, 516, 406 P.3d 225 (2017) (explaining the effect of Horton on the remedy clause analysis). In short, the court concluded in Horton that the remedy clause of Article I, section 10, "limits the legislature's substantive authority to alter or adjust a person's remedy [289 Or.App. 678] for injuries to person, property, and reputation." 359 Or at 173. However, it did away with the construct from Smothers that, to determine if the remedy clause guarantees a remedy for a certain claim, courts had to determine whether, at the time that the Oregon Constitution was drafted in 1857, the common law of Oregon recognized a cause of action for the alleged injury. See Smothers, 332 Or at 124. Instead, as we examine in more detail later in this opinion, the court concluded that "the remedy-clause analysis focuses on the effect of legislation on the common law as it existed when the legislature acted, taking into account how the common-law may have changed over time 'to meet the changing needs of the state.'" Schutz v. La Costita III. Inc., 288 Or.App. 476, 485, 406 P.3d 66 (2017) (quoting Horton, 359 Or at 218).

         Shortly after Horton, the court issued its opinion on review in this case. Rains v. Stayton Builders Mart. Inc., 359 Or. 610, 375 P.3d 490 (2016). In that opinion, the court noted that we did not have the benefit of Horton in addressing the parties' arguments under Article I, section 17. Id. at 639. Accordingly, the court vacated our decision "with respect to the parties' assignments of error relating to the application of the statutory damage cap to plaintiffs' noneconomic damage awards" and remanded to us "for reconsideration of those assignments of error in light of Horton.Id. at 639-40. In a footnote, the court also noted that depending on how we resolved the parties' arguments under Article I, section 17, it may be appropriate for us to "consider plaintiffs' alternative challenges to the application of the statutory damage cap to their claims based on Article I, section 10, as interpreted in Horton.Id. at 640 n 11. The court explicitly expressed no opinion on that issue, and it explicitly expressed no opinion "as to whether that issue was properly raised, preserved, or developed below, [leaving] those questions, in the first instance, to the Court of Appeals on remand." Id.

         On remand, we granted the parties permission to file supplemental briefing. In addition, the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) appeared as amicus curiae and filed a brief in support of plaintiffs, and the Oregon Liability Reform Coalition and Associated Oregon Industries [289 Or.App. 679] (collectively AOI) appeared as amicus curiae and filed a joint brief in support of Weyerhaeuser.

         Plaintiffs acknowledge on remand that Horton foreclosed any argument that Article I, section 17, prohibited application of ORS 31.710(1) to their damages awards. Instead, plaintiffs ask us to affirm the trial court's limited judgment in their favor because, under Horton, the application of ORS 31.710(1) in this case violates the remedy clause of Article I, section 10. In particular, plaintiffs argue that application of ORS 31.710(1) violates the remedy clause in this case because it would leave them without a substantial remedy. OTLA supports plaintiffs' argument and also asserts that ORS 31.710(1) is facially unconstitutional under the remedy clause because it imposes a "substitute remedy without any regard to the underlying injury" and fails to provide "any benefit in exchange for the remedy it purports to limit"-i.e., it does not provide a quid pro quo.

         Weyerhaeuser argues that plaintiffs' challenge to ORS 31.710(1) under the remedy clause is precluded because they are raising it for the first time on remand. Alternatively, Weyerhaeuser contends that, even if we consider plaintiffs' alternative basis for affirmance, ORS 31.710(1) does not violate the remedy clause in this case because the statute provides a "substantial remedy" to Kevin, and the remedy clause does not apply to Mitzi's loss of consortium claim because "Oregon law ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.