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Alcutt v. Adams Family Food Services, Inc.

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 10-09-2013
Case #: A147515
Sercombe, J. for the Court; Ortega, P.J.; and Hadlock, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A147515.pdf

Workers Compensation: The exclusive remedy provision of the Workers' Compensation Law is unconstitutional as applied to a worker left with no process through which to seek redress for an injury for which a cause of action exists at common law.

Employee appealed trial court order dismissing his action.  Employee suffered a work injury and filed a workers’ compensation claim, but the claim was denied on the ground that work activity was not the major contributing cause of his disability or need for treatment.  Employee then filed this action, alleging his employer violated the Oregon Safe Employment Act (OSEA), committed negligence per se, and was negligent in failing to provide a safe workplace.  The trial court dismissed the action because of the exclusive remedy provision of the Workers’ Compensation Law.  Employee appealed and argued that the trial court erred by misinterpreting the statute and violated his rights under Article I, section 10 of the Oregon Constitution.  The Court applied Smothers v. Gresham Transfer, Inc., which held that the exclusive remedy provision is unconstitutional as applied to a worker left with no process through which to seek redress for an injury for which a cause of action existed at common law, and concluded that Employee had the right to pursue his negligence claims because that right is constitutionally protected and negligence is a cause of action that existed at common law when the Oregon Constitution was created.  Employee’s OSEA violation claim, however, is not constitutionally protected.  Reversed as to employee’s second and third claims for relief; otherwise affirmed.