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Oregon Supreme Court upholds two year statute of limitations for survival and wrongful death actions against public bodies

The Oregon Tort Claims Act establishes a two year statute of limitations for tort actions against public bodies.  This limitation applies notwithstanding any other provision of Oregon law “providing a limitation on the commencement of an action”.  ORS 30.275(9).

In Baker v. City of Lakeside, the Oregon Supreme Court held this statue did not preempt ORS 12.020(2), which allows a timely filed lawsuit to be served up to 60 days after the statute of limitations has run.  The court reasoned that ORS 30.279(9) only preempted statutes that provide a limitation on the commencement of an action, which ORS 12.020(2) did not.

Bell v. Tri-Met, is a survival action that was brought two weeks too late to comply with ORS 30.275(9).  Citing Baker, plaintiff argued the three year survival action statute of limitation should instead apply.  ORS 30.175.  According to plaintiff, that statute was not a limitation on the commencement of an action as it merely tolled the limitation period for one year following death.  The Supreme Court rejected that argument, holding ORS 30.175 to establish a three year limitation period for survival actions which was subject to preemption under ORS 30.279(9).  As the suit was filed after the two year limitation period established by that statute, it was untimely.

Note:  Wrongful death actions are also covered under ORS 30.175 so this decision should equally apply to them.