Turner v. Dept. of Transportation

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Tort Law
  • Date Filed: 04-15-2015
  • Case #: A151193
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Sercombe, P.J. for the Court; Hadlock, J.; & Tookey, J.

Under the Oregon Tort Claims Act, the two-year statute of limitations may not begin to run until a plaintiff reasonably knows both that the governmental conduct caused harm and that the conduct was negligent or intentionally harmful. Under ORS 30.265(6)(c), governmental immunity applies only where a body or person that has responsibility or authority to exercise judgment over a public policy decision actually demonstrates that it took the action necessary to effectuate the decision, not merely weighs the costs and benefits.

Plaintiff Turner (Turner) was involved in an accident with another motorist while traveling on a Lincoln County highway. More than two years later Turner brought a personal injury action against the motorist, the City of Depot Bay (the City), Lincoln County, the State and related governmental entities (collectively, the Entities), alleging that the site of the accident was negligently designed and maintained. On the Entities’ motion, a limited judgment was granted in the Entities’ favor because the court found the action was time-barred under the Oregon Tort Claims Act (OTCA) and governmental immunity under ORS 30.265(6)(c). The Court held that Lincoln County had proved all elements of governmental immunity, but that the trial court erred as to the City and the State because (1) Turner may reasonably have failed to discover the Entities’ actions or inactions more than two years prior to filing the action; (2) the record lacked evidence that the State considered and rejected modifications of the accident site during any process; (3) the record lacked evidence that the State deliberately chose not to redesign the traffic controls at the accident site because of the adoption and implementation of a policy choice; (4) the City’s Traffic System Plan recognized dangerous traffic conditions at the accident site but did not specify a time or manner of repair, which did satisfy the requirement of action to effectuate a policy decision; and (5) the City’s lack of ownership of a street does not, as a matter of law, negate the City’s responsibility to make streets safe for travelers. Judgment in favor of the State of Oregon and City of Depot Bay reversed and remanded; otherwise affirmed.

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