State court reverses trial court ruling in harassment case

The Oregon Supreme Court recently reversed the ruling of a trial court, which originally issued a summary judgment for the defendants in a sexual harassment case. The decision of the appeals court centered around whether or not the defendant in the case could have a reasonable expectation to know that sexual abuse was possible.

The lawsuit involved six plaintiffs who originally filed separate suits. The suits were combined,, as they were all against the same defendant for the same reason. The six plaintiffs are suing an ambulance company. They allege that the ambulance company failed to prevent one of its employees from sexually abusing medical patients while the patients were being transported.

The lawsuit comes after a number of plaintiffs stepped forward to claim abuse by the same ambulance worker. Numerous plaintiffs reportedly did not file complaints about the abuse to the police or hospital, though other individuals did. One woman reported the issue to the hospital upon arriving, said court documents. That resulted in an investigation by the police.

The investigation led to the arrest and conviction of the man in question. The case reviewed by the Supreme Court was not the criminal defense matter, though. It was a separate civil suit filed against the man's employer.

The trial court originally dismissed the case, stating that the plaintiffs failed to show that the employer had reasonable knowledge of the abuse. The appeals court reversed this decision, ruling that the case may go forward, because it said that the employer did have a reasonable knowledge that individuals were in vulnerable positions in the ambulance and abuse could occur.

This case is a good example of how the interpretation of just a few words of law can change the outcome of a case. If you are dealing with a court decision that doesn't sit right with you, consider working with an appeals lawyer to understand how the law might be interpreted differently.

Source: State of Oregon, "Cases decided August 11, 2016," Aug. 11, 2016

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