Turner v. Dept. of TransportationAnnotate this Case
Plaintiff Tyler Turner contended that defendant Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) had contributed to a motor vehicle accident by negligently failing to correct hazardous conditions at the highway intersection where he was injured. In a summary judgment motion, ODOT claimed immunity under ORS 30.265(6)(c). ODOT’s claim of immunity rested on the theory that, because it had a policy of seeking highway safety improvement funding from the legislature only for the most crash-prone sites in the state highway system, ODOT’s omission of the crash site from its appropriation requests amounted to a budget-driven, discretionary policy decision not to make improvements at the site. Plaintiff opposed the motion with evidence that ODOT employees knew that the intersection was dangerous but had neglected to make improvements by using ODOT’s other mechanisms for evaluating and funding low-cost highway safety improvements. Although ODOT prevailed at the trial court, the Court of Appeals determined that questions of fact precluded summary judgment. ODOT argued to the Supreme Court that, when a state agency used a global process for setting priorities and allocating limited resources, discretionary-function immunity attached and the agency need not engage in further, particularized decision-making. "The record on summary judgment does not bear out that premise as a matter of undisputed fact. It follows that ODOT’s employment of the ranking process cannot resolve the issue of ODOT’s immunity under ORS 30.265(6)(c) as a matter of law. "Therefore, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment for ODOT on that ground, and the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals.