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Doe v. Lake Oswego School District

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 03-07-2013
Case #: S059589
Walters, J. for the Court; Balmer, C.J.; Kistler, J.; Walters, J.; Linder, J.; Brewer, J.; and Baldwin, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/S059589.pdf

Tort Law: For a tort claim to accrue, a plaintiff must have discovered "not only the conduct of the defendant, but also the tortious nature of that conduct." Whether the nature of the defendant's act is generally known is a question of fact. The circumstances to consider include: plaintiff's status as a minor, the relationship between the parties, and the nature of the harm suffered.

Former students (Doe), who were allegedly touched inappropriately by a 5th-grade teacher between 1968 and 1984, sued Lake Oswego School District (School) under the Oregon Torts Claim Act. The School moved to dismiss, claiming ORCP 21 time-barred the claims, which the trial court granted. Doe appealed and the appellate court affirmed the dismissal. Doe appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court. The School argued that the claims were time-barred because the latest touching that occurred was in 1984, which caused Doe's claims to necessarily begin at that time. Doe responded that the abusive or harmful nature of the touchings was reasonably undiscovered at that time. The Court agreed with Doe, holding that a plaintiff must have discovered "not only the conduct of the defendant, but also, under Gaston, the tortious nature of that conduct." Whether the nature of the defendant's act is known is generally a question of fact. The circumstances to consider include: plaintiff's status as a minor, the relationship between the parties, and the nature of the harm suffered. Applying the principles, the Court determined that a jury could find from the facts that Doe reasonably did not know that the conduct was offensive at the time it occurred. The decision of the Court of Appeals is reversed. The limited judgment of the circuit court is reversed, and the case is remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings.