Vasquez v. Double Press Mfg., Inc.

Decision Date04 May 2016
Docket Number110302844,A154774.
Citation278 Or.App. 77,372 P.3d 605
PartiesZeferino VASQUEZ, Plaintiff–Respondent, v. DOUBLE PRESS MFG., INC., a California corporation, Defendant–Appellant.
CourtOregon Court of Appeals

278 Or.App. 77
372 P.3d 605

Zeferino VASQUEZ, Plaintiff–Respondent
v.
DOUBLE PRESS MFG., INC., a California corporation, Defendant–Appellant.

110302844
A154774.

Court of Appeals of Oregon.

Argued and Submitted Jan. 5, 2015.
Decided May 4, 2016.


372 P.3d 605

Jonathan Henderson, Portland, argued the cause for appellant. With him on the briefs were Elizabeth E. Lampson and Davis Rothwell Earle & Xochihua, PC.

Mark G. McDougal argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Gregory Kafoury and Kathryn Clarke.

Before ARMSTRONG, Presiding Judge, and HADLOCK, Chief Judge, and EGAN, Judge.*

372 P.3d 606

EGAN, J.

278 Or.App. 79

Defendant Double Press Mfg. appeals from a judgment for plaintiff, following a jury trial on a negligence claim. Plaintiff was severely injured when he was crushed by a hay-bale cutting machine while cleaning it. Defendant manufactured and sold the machine to plaintiff's employer. After a trial on plaintiff's negligence claim against defendant, the jury awarded plaintiff both economic and noneconomic damages, but found plaintiff 40 percent at fault for his injuries. On appeal, defendant raises two assignments of error. We reject defendant's second assignment of error without written discussion. In its first assignment of error, defendant contends that the trial court erred when it denied defendant's post-verdict motion to reduce the jury's award of noneconomic damages to $500,000, based on ORS 31.710(1).1 Plaintiff responds that applying the statutory limit on noneconomic damages would violate his right to a jury trial—Article I, section 17, of the Oregon Constitution2 —and the prohibition on re-examination of facts found by a jury—Article VII (Amended), section 3, of the Oregon Constitution.3 The trial court denied defendant's motion based on Lakin v. Senco Products, Inc., 329 Or. 62, 987 P.2d 463, clarified, 329 Or. 369, 987 P.2d 476 (1999). We agree that Lakin is controlling and, accordingly, we affirm.

We set out the facts consistently with the jury's verdict. See Mead v. Legacy Health System, 352 Or. 267, 269 n. 2, 283 P.3d 904 (2012) ; Delaney v. Taco Time Int'l., 297 Or. 10, 12, 681 P.2d 114 (1984). Defendant manufactures and sells agricultural machinery. OR PAC Feed & Forage LTD, the

278 Or.App. 80

employer of plaintiff, purchased a bale-cutting machine from defendant, and defendant installed the machine. Plaintiff's job duties included operating and cleaning hay out of and around the bale cutting machine. Plaintiff operated the machine from a control panel located at the control tower. Before plaintiff cleaned hay out of or around the machine, he pushed a button on the control panel to switch the machine from automatic to manual mode. In addition to switching the machine to manual mode, there was a “lockout/tagout” safety procedure. Under that procedure, an operator shuts off the power source supply with a lock and key and takes the key so that only one person has access to the power supply while working on the machine.

On March 31, 2010, plaintiff left the control tower to ask his cousin whether his shift was over. Plaintiff did not turn off and lock out the machine, nor did he switch the machine from automatic mode to manual mode. When plaintiff's cousin confirmed that his shift was over, plaintiff began to clean the machine. While cleaning the machine—removing jammed material from the exterior—plaintiff was “crushed by a ‘pinch point’ created by a hydraulic ram moving against the exterior framework” of the machine. A “pinch point” is a place on the machine “where two pieces of material come together.”4

Plaintiff was severely injured. Plaintiff's neurosurgeon testified that plaintiff was “essentially cut in half, right through the base of the spine” and that the machine “broke his bones and crushed his spine and tore soft tissue.” As a result of the injury plaintiff is permanently paraplegic.

372 P.3d 607

Plaintiff filed an action against defendant, alleging claims for negligence and products liability, and subsequently amended his complaint to proceed on his negligence claim alone. Before trial, defendant moved for partial summary judgment to limit plaintiff's noneconomic damages to $500,000 under ORS 31.710(1). Relying on Lakin, the trial court denied defendant's motion for summary judgment, explaining, “For now I'm going to consider Lakin to be binding on” the issue of noneconomic damages.

278 Or.App. 81

At trial, plaintiff testified that he was partially at fault for his injuries. Based on that admission, defendant moved for a directed verdict to cap plaintiff's noneconomic damages. The trial court denied that motion, again relying on Lakin:

“[Lakin ] itself was a products liability case. There was no privity of contract. I believe the finding of the jury was that the plaintiff was contributorily or comparatively negligent, and the Oregon Supreme Court struck the statutory—or the noneconomic damages cap in that case. That is binding precedent on me and I think resolves completely those motions, so those motions are denied.

“ * * * * *

“Okay. I mean, I think [Lakin ] is—I don't think the discussion of the remedies clause is at all relevant to the jury trial right, which was resolved in [Lakin ], and I don't think the recent case law with respect to the remedies clause has application here.

“The Supreme Court said, or other like cases, and obviously found a products liability case with a comparatively negligent plaintiff to be in that category[.]”

The jury returned a verdict in plaintiff's favor for $2,231,817 in economic damages and $8,100,000 in noneconomic damages, but found plaintiff 40 percent at fault for his injuries. Defendant moved to reduce the jury's award of noneconomic damages to $500,000 based on ORS 31.710(1), arguing that Lakin did not control. The trial court denied defendant's motion. The trial court then entered a judgment for plaintiff in the amount of $6,199,090.20, representing 60 percent of the total award from the jury—$4,860,000 of which are noneconomic damages.

Following the entry of judgment, defendant moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and a new trial, again arguing that ORS 31.710(1) applied. The trial court denied those motions without explanation.

On appeal, defendant assigns error only to the trial court's denial of its “post-verdict motion to apply the noneconomic damages cap found in ORS 31.710(1) to the jury's award of noneconomic damages and reduce the award of

278 Or.App. 82

noneconomic damages.” Defendant argues that the trial court erred because Article I, section 17, did not prevent application of ORS 31.710(1) to plaintiff's damages.

We turn to the merits of defendant's argument that the trial court erred when it denied defendant's post-verdict motion to apply ORS 31.710(1) —the $500,000 noneconomic damages cap—to the jury's award of noneconomic damages to plaintiff. “We review the trial court's ruling regarding the constitutionality of a statute for an error of law.” State v. Betnar, 214 Or.App. 416, 419, 166 P.3d 554 (2007) ; State v. Rangel, 328 Or. 294, 298, 977 P.2d 379 (1999).

We begin with a review of the Supreme Court cases under Article I, section 17 (Lakin and its progeny), to resolve this case.

In Lakin, the Supreme Court concluded that former ORS 18.560(1) (1999), renumbered as ORS 31.710(1) (2003), violated Article I, section 17, the right to a jury trial. 329 Or. at 81, 987 P.2d 463. In that case, the plaintiffs, a worker and his wife, brought a negligence and products liability action against Senco, a nail gun manufacturer, after the worker was injured when the nail gun he was using double-fired and caused the worker to suffer severe injuries. Id. at 66–68, 987 P.2d 463. The trial court awarded economic, noneconomic, and punitive damages to plaintiff, but reduced the noneconomic damages to $500,000 for each plaintiff pursuant to the statutory cap, and reduced the worker's award by the jury's finding that he had contributed five percent to his injuries.

372 P.3d 608

Id. at 66–67, 987 P.2d 463. Both parties appealed. Id. at 67, 987 P.2d 463.

We affirmed Senco's appeal and affirmed in part and...

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4 cases
  • Vasquez v. Double Press Mfg., Inc.
    • United States
    • Oregon Court of Appeals
    • November 1, 2017
    ...Hadlock, Chief Judge, and Egan, Judge. ARMSTRONG, P. J.Defendant seeks reconsideration of our decision in Vasquez v. Double Press Mfg., Inc. , 278 Or.App. 77, 372 P.3d 605 (2016). In that decision, we concluded that the application in this case of the cap on noneconomic damages in ORS 31.71......
  • Dikes v. United States
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Oregon
    • December 13, 2018
    ...but the trial court denied the defendant's motion. The Court of Appeals initially affirmed the trial court. Vasquez v. Double Press Mfg., Inc. , 278 Or. App. 77, 372 P.3d 605 (2016). The defendant, however, sought reconsideration of that decision. The court granted reconsideration and withd......
  • Vasquez v. Double Press Mfg., Inc.
    • United States
    • Oregon Supreme Court
    • April 4, 2019
    ...motions, defendant appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, also based on this court’s holding in Lakin . Vasquez v. Double Press Mfg., Inc. , 278 Or. App. 77, 372 P.3d 605 (2016). But the day after the Court of Appeals decided this case, this court overruled Lakin in Horton v. Oregon Healt......
  • Rubi v. Nooth
    • United States
    • Oregon Court of Appeals
    • May 4, 2016

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