Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani Portland team of partner Nancy Erfle and senior counsel David Cramer obtained summary judgment in a wrongful death case on behalf of the firm’s client, a company engaged in the acquisition of timber products. The plaintiff’s decedent was killed during a logging operation when he was struck by a piece of heavy machinery. The firm’s client had contracted with the deceased’s employer to log timber that the client had acquired the rights to from the federal government. The plaintiff argued that the firm’s client was liable under Oregon’s Employer Liability Act, which imposes what amounts to strict liability on all owners, contractors, or other individuals having responsibility for work involving a risk of danger.
Erfle and Cramer quickly positioned the case for a summary judgment motion, arguing that there was no evidence that the firm’s client was actively involved in the logging of the timber that resulted in the death of the plaintiff’s decedent. Additionally, Gordon & Rees argued that the logging contractor was an independent contractor and the firm’s client did not retain the right to control how the logging contractor trained its employees or how the contractor was to operate the logging equipment. At oral argument, the plaintiff argued that there could be no delegation of safety by the firm’s client to an independent contractor, but the court, based on the arguments in response, disagreed, and granted summary judgment in favor of the firm’s client as to all of the plaintiff’s claims.