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Preble v. Centennial School District No. 287

Court of Appeals of Oregon

June 26, 2019

Linda Jean PREBLE, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CENTENNIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 287, a Portland Oregon School District, Defendant-Respondent.

          Argued and submitted November 28, 2018.

          Multnomah County Circuit Court 16CV10909. Leslie G. Bottomly, Judge.

          Julene M. Quinn argued the cause and fled the briefs for appellant.

          Blake H. Fry argued the cause for respondent. Also on the brief was Karen M. Vickers and Mersereau Shannon LLP.

          Theodore P. Heus and Preston Bunnell, LLP, fled the brief amicus curiae for Oregon Trial Lawyers Association.

          David L. Runner filed the brief amicus curiae for SAIF Corporation, Timber Products Company, and BDI Staffing.

          Before Powers, Presiding Judge, and Egan, Chief Judge, and Landau, Senior Judge. [*]

         [298 Or.App. 358] Case Summary: After an unsuccessful workers' compensation claim, plaintiff brought a personal injury action against her public employer for damages resulting from an accident at work. Plaintiff appeals from a motion to dismiss, assigning error to the trial court's conclusion that the claim was time-barred under ORS 30.275(9)'s two-year statute of limitations for tort actions against a public body. According to plaintiff, the pertinent statute is ORS 656.019(2)(a), and she fled her claim within that statute's timeframe-180 days after finalization of an unsuccessful workers' compensation claim, even if that is more than two years after the date of the injury. Held: Based on the principles of statutory construction, when statutes irreconcilably conflict, the limitation period in ORS 656.019(2)(a) applies. The trial court erred when it granted employer's motion to dismiss.

         Reversed and remanded.

         [298 Or.App. 359] LANDAU, S. J.

         The question in this case is which of two statutes of limitations applies to plaintiffs personal injury claim against a public employer. On the one hand, ORS 30.275(9) provides that "[notwithstanding any other *** statute providing a limitation on the commencement of an action," a tort action against a public body must be filed within two years after the alleged loss or injury. On the other hand, ORS 656.019(2)(a) provides that, "notwithstanding any other statute of limitation," a claim against an employer- including a public employer-must be filed within 180 days after an unsuccessful workers' compensation claim against the public employer has become final, even if that is more than two years after the alleged loss or injury. In this case, plaintiff filed her personal injury claim within 180 days of the date her unsuccessful workers' compensation claim became final, but more than two years after the injury. So, depending on which statute of limitations applies, her claim may or may not have been timely filed.

         The trial court concluded that plaintiffs claim is time-barred, because the two-year limitation period in ORS 30.275(9) applies. The trial court therefore dismissed plaintiffs claim. For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the trial court erred and that plaintiffs claim is not time-barred, because the more generous limitation period in ORS 656.019(2)(a) applies. Accordingly, we reverse and remand.

         As this case was disposed of on a motion to dismiss, we take the facts based on the allegations of the complaint and draw all inferences in favor of plaintiff. See Rice v. Rabb, 354 Or. 721, 723, 320 P.3d 554 (2014) (stating standard of review). Plaintiff worked as an educational assistant for defendant, a public school district. On November 8, 2013, a child riding a scooter crashed into plaintiff, injuring plaintiffs knee. Plaintiff filed a workers' compensation claim for the work-related injury to her knee. Defendant denied the claim on the ground that hers was a combined condition resulting from the scooter accident in conjunction with a long-term degenerative knee condition, and the scooter accident that occurred at work was not the major contributing cause of the resulting combined condition. See ORS 656.005 [298 Or.App. 360] (7)(a)(B) (a combined injury is compensable only if the compensable injury is the "major contributing cause"). Plaintiff requested a hearing at which she offered expert testimony that the work-related scooter accident was the major contributing cause of her condition. The Workers' Compensation Board (board) ultimately found that plaintiffs evidence was not as persuasive as defendant's. On October 30, 2015, the board upheld defendant's denial because the work-related scooter accident was not the major contributing cause of her combined condition.

         On March 31, 2016, plaintiff filed a complaint for negligence against defendant for damages resulting from the scooter accident at work. It is undisputed that plaintiff filed that complaint within 180 days of the board's denial of her claim, but more than two years from the date of her injury. Plaintiff alleged in her complaint that the action had been timely commenced under ORS 656.019 (2Xa). Defendant responded with a motion to dismiss on the ground that the action was time barred. According to defendant, the two-year limitation period in ORS 30.275(9)-not the longer limitation period of ORS 656.019(2)(a)-controls. The trial court agreed with defendant and dismissed the complaint.

         On appeal, plaintiff argues that the trial court erred in granting defendant's motion to dismiss. She contends that the longer limitation period of ORS 656.019(2)(a) controls. She acknowledges that, at least on the surface, both that statute and ORS 30.275(9) appear to apply; both purport to apply "notwithstanding" any other statute of limitations. In light of that apparently irreconcilable conflict between the two statutes of limitations, plaintiff argues that ORS 656.019(2)(a) controls because it is both the more particular provision and the one more recently enacted.

         Defendant insists that ORS 30.275(9) controls. According to defendant ORS 30.275(9) clearly states that, subject to exceptions that do not apply to this case, the two-year limitation period applies "notwithstanding any other statute of limitations." Defendant argues that, because ORS 656.019(2)(a) is another statute of limitations and is not among the listed exceptions to the two-year limitation period [298 Or.App. 361] ...


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