Oregon Employer Liability Law Claim Against Corporate Owner

Posted on Oct 02, 2014

The Oregon Supreme Court recently decided a claim made under the Employer Liability Law to determine whether not been injured worker could sue a corporation that owned and managed a Limited Liability Company.

In this case, a timber company purchased a Southern Oregon lumber mill, and reorganized the mill as a limited liability company. A limited liability company is one form of a business entity allowed under Oregon law. The corporate owner set policies for safety, and delegated that responsibility to the employees at lumber mill. The plaintiff was struck by a forklift while working at the mill, and suffered serious injuries.

The injured worker filed a workers’ compensation claim, but also filed a claim under the Employer Liability Law (also known as the ELL) against the corporate owner of the mill, alleging that it failed to properly manage safety at the mill, and failed to set out more specific requirements to prevent these kinds of injuries.

The Court noted that the ELL imposes a heightened statutory standard of care on any person or business entity that either is in charge of, or is responsible for, any work that involves risk and danger. The issue before the Court was whether not the corporate owner of the sawmill was in charge of, or responsible for the work that occurred at the mill. The Court of Appeals found there was not enough evidence for a jury to consider whether the corporate owner was working side-by-side with the sawmill, that the corporate owner controlled the activity that created the risk of injury, or that the corporate owner retained the right to control the activity that created the risk of injury to the injured worker.

The Supreme Court agreed that there was not enough evidence that the corporate owner was working side-by-side with the sawmill, or that it controlled the activity that occured day-to-day at the sawmill. However, based on the facts of the case, the Supreme Court found there was enough evidence that a jury could consider whether or not the corporate owner retained control over the safety program at the mill.

This case affirms that a corporate owner of a separate and distinct business can be liable for serious injuries if in fact it controls the manner in which the work is done on a day-to-day basis. As result, the injured worker is entitled to damages beyond what is available in a typical workers’ compensation claim.

ELL claims require prompt and thorough investigation, and in serious cases, can significantly affect an injured worker’s quality of life.

If you have an on-the-job injury, and would like to discuss whether you have other options beyond the Oregon Workers’ Compensation claim, call us at 503-325-8600. We have helped many workers involved in dangerous and hazardous work with these claims.