E.J.T. v. Jefferson County

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Tort Law
  • Date Filed: 09-22-2022
  • Case #: S068846
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Flynn, J. for the Court; En Banc.
  • Full Text Opinion

The Vulnerable Person Act allows for a suit against a public body. Additionally, the child-abuse-reporting statutes do not create a liability for a public body.

The district court granted Plaintiff’s request for certification to the Supreme Court. The district court case arose out of law enforcement officers' failure to a report of suspected child abuse to DHS. The first question was whether a claim can be made against a public body under the Vulnerable Persons Act ("VPA"). Plaintiff argued that an abuse of a vulnerable person claim against a public body can be made through the Oregon Tort Claims Act (OTCA). Defendants argued OTCA provides the “exclusive remedy” against a public body. The Court reasoned that OTCA waives sovereign immunity for all torts committed by the public body and because a Vulnerable Person Act is a tort, it falls under OTCA. Accordingly, the Vulnerable Person Act allows for a suit against a public body. The second question was whether a public body is liable for violations of the child-abuse-reporting statutes. Plaintiff argued that the legislature impliedly created liability under the child-abuse-reporting statutes. Defendants argued that because the statute already included enforcement mechanisms, the legislative intent for additional liability did not exist. The Court reasoned that the child-abuse-reporting statutes gave a duty to the public body but there was no legislative intent to make the public body liable. A penalty, not a liability, was expressly created. No evidence suggests that the legislature’s intent was to create a liability beyond the penalty. Accordingly, the Court found that the child-abuse-reporting statutes do not create a liability.

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