Court: Oregon Supreme Court
Opinion Date: June 17, 2021
Judge: Martha Lee Walters
Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Insurance Law, Personal Injury
Plaintiff was a passenger in a truck driven by Lorenz. The vehicles were traveling on an interstate when it began to hail and rain. A sedan ahead of the truck spun out of control and collided with the front of the truck. The passengers of the sedan required medical assistance; a third vehicle struck the back of the truck, pushing the truck into the sedan. Plaintiff was severely injured. Plaintiff filed a personal injury claim for damages, alleging the drivers of the vehicles, John Turner and Sherri Oliver, had been negligent and that the negligence of each had caused her injuries and damages. She also alleged that Turner and Oliver were underinsured and that, as a result, she was entitled to UIM benefits from her own insurance company, the defendant Mutual of Enumclaw Insurance. Eventually, the plaintiff settled with Turner and Oliver for a total of $175,000, and the case was dismissed as to them. This case was the second appeal in a dispute between Plaintiff and her insurance company over the limits of her Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage. Plaintiff’s policy included a limit of $500,000 for damages “resulting from any one automobile accident.” In the first trial, in this case, the jury found that plaintiff’s injuries resulted in damages of $979,540. In the second trial, the jury found that plaintiff was injured, not in one, but in two, separate “accidents,” and that it could not “separate the cause” of the plaintiff’s injuries between those two accidents. Consequently, the trial court awarded the plaintiff the full measure of her damages, minus offsets. On appeal, the insurance company argued the trial court had erred in its instructions to the jury and should have required the jury to apportion the plaintiff’s damages between the two accidents. The Court of Appeals agreed with the company and reversed. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the trial correctly instructed the jury it could find, as a matter of fact, the number of accidents that occurred and whether the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries could be separated between them.
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