An injured worker’s lawsuit alleging his employer committed fraud is not barred by the exclusive remedy provision of Oregon’s workers’ compensation law, a state appellate court has ruled.
The ruling Wednesday, March 24, by the Oregon Court of Appeals in Patrick J. Merten v. Portland General Electric Co. stemmed from an April 2003 work accident in which the employee fell from a power pole.
Merten filed a workers’ comp claim, which the employer denied, telling the worker it would open the claim once he submitted medical records documenting his injuries from the fall. However, once Merten’s right to request a hearing on the claims denial expired, Portland General Electric refused to open the claim even though he submitted the medical records, court records state.
The worker sued for fraud, alleging the employer never intended to open his injury claim and told him that it would do so only to prevent him from making a timely request for a hearing on the claims denial.
A trial court granted the employer’s request for summary judgment, agreeing that the workers’ comp exclusive remedy barred the claim.
On appeal, the Oregon appellate court found that the plaintiff’s fraud allegations did not arise from the course of his employment and the alleged fraud could not be compensated by the workers’ comp system.
“There is nothing in plaintiff's employment that caused his alleged fraud damages,” the court ruled. “Those damages were caused by defendant’s intentional nonwork-related conduct.”
The court also ruled that “a reasonable juror could find that the plaintiff reasonably relied on the defendant’s misrepresentations.”