Yeatts v. Polygon Northwest Co.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Tort Law
  • Date Filed: 08-04-2016
  • Case #: S062977
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Brewer, J.
 for the Court; Balmer, C.J.; Landau, J.; Baldwin, J.; Kistler, J.; & Walters, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

The Oregon Employer Liability Law (ELL) imposes a greater duty of care on employers than common law negligence imposes; circumstances giving rise to ELL liability can exist without also supporting liability in negligence.

Yeatts appealed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Polygon, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Yeatts argued that Polygon was liable for Yeatts’ injuries under the Oregon Employer Liability Law (ELL) as Yeatts’ “indirect employer” and that Polygon also was liable based on common-law negligence. Polygon argued that it was not subject to the ELL because it did not control the guardrails and that it was not liable in negligence because it did not have a legal relationship with Yeatts under which it owed a duty to ensure his personal safety. To establish that Polygon “retained the right to control,” Yeatts needed to present evidence from which a retained right of control could be inferred. Boothby v. D.R. Johnson Lumber Co., 341 Or 35, 41 (2006). The Court held that Yeatts submitted sufficient evidence that Polygon retained a right to control the risk-producing activity to withstand Polygon’s motion for summary judgment with respect to Yeatts’ ELL claim. The Court also held that ELL was intended to impose higher standards of care upon employers than in common law and circumstances giving rise to ELL liability may exist without liability in negligence also arising. Saylor v. Enterprise Electric Co., 106 Or 421 (1923). The decision of the Court of Appeals is affirmed in part and reversed in part.

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