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Matthew D. Kaplan

Workers in Oregon should be entitled to safe workplaces where they can complete their responsibilities and then return home to family, friends, and loved ones. Too often, that doesn’t happen. Workers may receive insufficient training, inadequate supervision, or machinery that lacks proper safety protections. When a serious injury results, the worker may have a civil claim under Oregon law. If that is you or a loved one, an experienced Oregon industrial accident lawyer can offer invaluable information and advice about this area of the law and how it might apply to your situation.

An unsafe workplace led to a catastrophic injury to one man in Hermiston, according to a lawsuit he filed recently. Willamette Week reported that D. R.-P. was working the night shift at a food “upcycling” facility when a damp package jammed a shredder machine. Based on earlier instructions from the supervisor, the man jumped onto the conveyor belt to free the problematic package. When he did so, he fell into the shredder’s cutting blades, which severely mangled his legs.

The lawsuit, which the man filed here in Multnomah County, alleges many forms of substandard safety. The safety training the man received was deficient and the company failed to adopt safety protocols, the complaint claimed.

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Workers today utilize machines to perform (or facilitate) a broad spectrum of tasks. Machines are essential to the success of many industrial and manufacturing operations. For the human workers in those facilities, their safety hinges in large part on those machines being in proper condition. An unsafe machine can pose all manner of risks that can disfigure, maim, or kill workers. If the entities who were responsible for that machine’s manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and repair were not the injured worker’s employer, then the worker has the opportunity, with the aid of an experienced Oregon industrial accident lawyer, to sue that third party (or parties) for their negligent acts (or inaction) and recoup essential compensation through the civil justice system.

The National Institutes of Health found that, from 1992-2010, an average of 770 workers died each year in “occupational fatalities involving machinery.” One cause of these accidents is substandard equipment. A machine that was defectively manufactured, installed improperly, or not maintained or repaired correctly is a machine that has the potential to kill workers.

Allegedly, that was the basis of a tragic workplace death just outside Medford. The deceased man, F.E., was a contractor hired by a company that allegedly was in the business of extracting hash oil from marijuana. The process required using an extraction machine system and butane as a solvent, and the company hired F.E. to install the system. F.E. and others spotted a leak during the installation process, according to the estate’s lawsuit. Everyone evacuated but when the contractor and one other man re-entered the warehouse, a massive explosion allegedly ensued. The contractor suffered widespread burn injuries that proved fatal.

A fatal accident west of Corvallis is a tragic yet important illustration that not all fatal vehicle accidents are created equal from a legal standpoint. All wrongful death cases arising from vehicle crashes can benefit from the services of a skilled Oregon wrongful death lawyer but some are especially complex, requiring extra steps and faster action.

The crash occurred in Yachats (a small coastal city about three hours southwest of Portland) and involved a 25-year-old woman driving her compact SUV northbound on Highway 101.

At the same time, an ambulance was turning left from a fire station driveway to enter the highway’s southbound lanes and respond to a high-priority call at a nearby assisted living facility. The two vehicles collided and the impact killed K.S., the mother-of-two who was driving the SUV.

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Ten people died while in custody at the Multnomah County Jail in 2022 and 2023, as compared to zero deaths in the preceding two years. Too many times, preventable deaths – whether here locally or elsewhere – are the result of protocols not being followed or people otherwise not doing their jobs. When that kind of failure leads to an inmate or detainee’s death, that could represent a federal civil rights violation. For the families of those inmates/detainees, restorative justice may be available by pursuing legal action, aided by representation from an experienced Oregon civil rights lawyer.

One of those detainees who died in the Multnomah County Jail in 2022 was Stephen Murphy, who was awaiting trial on federal drug charges. At the time a fellow inmate found him unresponsive, the man was suffering from severe internal bleeding. A coroner’s autopsy discovered that the detainee had a tumor in his liver that had burst.

The sheriff’s department initially listed Murphy’s cause of death as “natural causes,” but later changed it to “overdose.” Willamette Week reported that Murphy had 7.4 ng/ml of fentanyl in his blood when he died. (The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Chief Medical Examiner considers 3 ng/ml or more enough to list overdose as a patient’s cause of death, in the absence of any other diseases.)

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Insufficient medical treatment inside detention facilities is a significant issue around the country, including in Oregon’s jails and prisons. One major problem, a byproduct of the nationwide opioid epidemic, is an ever-increasing number of people entering lockup amid addiction. Whether as a result of a lack of diligence or a lack of knowledge, too many staff at lockups are failing to meet the needs of these detainees/inmates, and inmate deaths often are the result. The failure to treat conditions promptly and properly may constitute a violation of an inmate/detainee’s civil rights, in which case swiftly consulting an Oregon civil rights lawyer is an essential move.

Another area of substantial concern is mental health. Not only are substance withdrawal and mental health both major areas of concern, but they are also frequently interconnected. Medical researchers, including those with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the British Medical Association, have published significant research reporting on the link between the sudden disuse of opioids and suicide, as well as suicide as a symptom of alcohol withdrawal.

A case from Deschutes County focuses on those issues and, allegedly, a jail’s failure to provide appropriate treatment to an inmate with them.

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Many people think Oregon follows a “one bite” free rule before imposing owner liability in a dog attack case. That’s untrue; Oregon law generally holds dog owners strictly liable for attack injuries if the dog(s) had aggressive tendencies or a history of violence. That may mean a history of aggressive actions (like launching or attempted attacks.) Strict liability also can apply if the dog’s breed is one “that is known to be aggressive or dangerous.” Even if the dog wasn’t an aggressive breed and even if the dog lacked a history of violence, you still can hold the owner accountable if the owner failed to reasonably control his/her dog. After you’ve endured major injuries in an animal bite case, be sure to consult a knowledgeable Oregon lawyer who is experienced in dog attack matters to discuss your legal rights and options.

Northeast Portland was the site of one such dog attack in December. There, two Great Dane-Mastiff mix dogs mauled a 6-year-old boy to death inside the dog owner’s home.

In this local case, the dog owner was also the homeowner. However, in many cases, the dogs that attack belong to renters. That was the circumstance in a recent California case where two pit bulls attacked a woman in Los Angeles County. A state court of appeal said that, under California law, a dog attack victim can hold a landlord liable if the victim proves that the landlord had “actual knowledge of the tenacious dog’s vicious nature.”

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Oregon is the state with the largest number of logging businesses. (Washington is #5.) That fact alone should tell you that drivers on Oregon’s highways and byways often share the road with large logging trucks and trailers. These businesses require specially trained drivers and carefully maintained vehicles to ensure safety. That’s because when a logging truck crash happens, the results are often fatal. When a lack of proper attention to safety leads to deadly results, it is wise to contact an experienced Oregon wrongful death lawyer about your situation and needs.

A few years ago, Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech) published a study analyzing logging truck crashes. The study found that, during the years assessed, logging truck crashes nationwide were up 33% and fatal ones up 41%.

As a prolific logging state, Oregon is home to many logging truck accidents. Sometimes, these crashes involve errors by other drivers, like turning in front of a logging truck or losing control in bad weather and sliding into a logging truck’s lane. Many times, though, these crashes result from issues related to the logging truck or truck driver, such as when a logging truck loses its load onto the roadway or the driver loses control of the truck.

The beautiful scenery across Oregon can be enjoyed in many ways, and viewing it aboard a motorcycle can be among the most satisfying methods. Unfortunately, motorcyclists and their passengers are among the most vulnerable on the road. When a car, truck, or SUV driver makes a mistake, the collision that results from that error has an elevated chance of causing the motorcyclist involved to suffer catastrophic or fatal injuries. If you have encountered that situation — or you’ve lost a loved one as a result of this type of crash — you inevitably have much on your mind, not the least of which is addressing the steeper financial obligations you now face. When it comes time to seek compensation from insurers or through the legal system, be sure you have a knowledgeable Oregon motorcycle accident lawyer advocating for you.

One of the most common types of major motorcycle accidents, which this blog covered recently, involves motor vehicle drivers who make left turns in front of oncoming motorcyclists.

While that is a common scenario, it isn’t the only threat to motorcyclists that can have deadly consequences, as a late 2023 motorcycle crash in Jackson County illustrates. The motorcyclist, a 66-year-old Portland man, was driving his Harley Davidson motorcycle on Highway 230 near Crater Lake when a Toyota Corolla crossed the centerline of the highway and slammed head-on into his motorcycle.

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Many locations are reporting enormous spikes in jail deaths. Locally, Multnomah County has reported seven deaths this year, which is more than the previous five years combined. Too many jail deaths involve inmates who needed essential (and often immediate) medical care but didn’t get it. A federal jail death case to our south (San Bernardino County, California) serves as an important reminder that, when this happens, it’s not simply wrong, it’s also potentially a violation of federal civil rights laws.

The detainee, C.P., was a college student with schizophrenia. After she became pregnant in late 2020, the woman discontinued taking her prescription antipsychotic medication. By March 2021, she had become unstable and attacked her father and a neighbor. The father called 911 and, according to a local news report, warned the responding police officers that his daughter was pregnant and schizophrenic.

The father told a reporter that a deputy assured him that the county jail where the officer took the woman specialized in “people with mental health conditions.” Within 24 hours, despite placement without clothes in a padded cell, the woman had managed to injure herself. After a trip to the hospital, she was returned to jail. The police told the father that his daughter would be placed in a “safe room” where “she could not harm herself.” The woman was not restrained inside her cell.

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When you’re seriously injured — or a loved one is killed — in an auto accident caused by someone’s negligence or recklessness, the legal system allows you to pursue restorative justice. What that means may vary depending on the specific facts of the crash. Was the at-fault driver merely negligent or was extreme recklessness involved? Are you entitled to seek punitive damages or simply pursue compensation for your economic and non-economic harm? If punitive damages are a potential option, should you ask for them or forego this claim? For answers to these and other essential questions, seek out advice from an experienced Oregon auto accident lawyer.

These questions (and their answers) are more relevant than ever as, in many parts of our post-COVID world, road-related injuries and deaths have shot up from the levels seen during the 2010s. In Nevada, for example, 385 people died in road-related injuries in 2021, a 15-year high, according to the New York Times. 2022 was nearly as deadly, with 382 fatal injuries.

According to the Times report, a surgery professor in Las Vegas knows why. Based on the data the professor reviewed, “drivers were speeding more, on highways and on surface streets, and plowing through intersections with an alarming frequency.” On top of that, fewer people were using seat belts and more people were driving while intoxicated.

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