Published in part by The Oregonian, June
4, 2001. The balance was on-line in their Web site at
Are our constitutional rights insignificant?
An Oregon Supreme Court ruling on May 10 (Smothers v. Gresham Transfer, Inc.) stated that a constitutionally protected right had been denied. Article 1, Section 10 of the Oregon Constitution states that our Legislature may not deprive us of a remedy for an injury to person, property or reputation that was recognized at common law, unless the legislature makes available an equivalent remedy.
After reading responses to this ruling in various newspapers, it becomes apparent that those who oppose the decision upholding the Oregon Bill of Rights, only care about potential lessened profits for employers and insurance companies. They ignore the fact that Oregonians have unjustly been denied medical treatment and thousands of families have suffered greatly in Oregon's Workers' Compensation System.
While reading their statements I had to ask myself, What happened to moral integrity and honor? Has it gone out of vogue to expect employers and their insurers to honor their responsibility to workers after an injury? In a Salem newspaper article on May 11, recent Oregon Attorney General candidate Kevin Mannix stated, "Lawsuits will be used as leverage to extract more money and that is bad for employers and workers." In the same sense, can it not be said that employers have no reason to protect workers or dispute what are routine insurance company denials of injury claims because their liability is none to very little? Is the fact that Oregon workers were denied due process of law insignificant to the issue?
Kevin Mannix was cosponsor of Senate Bill 369 in 1995. It made "null" a ruling of a few weeks earlier by the same Court on the same issue. (Errand vs. Cascade Steel Rolling Mills, Inc.) I applaud the Oregon Supreme Court for once again defending the rights of all Oregonians.
It should concern all that our Legislature enacted a law in 1995, and could do so again this year on the same issue, that was blatantly unconstitutional. Is it not their duty to honor and protect our Constitution? Is my opinion simply out-of-step with present realities of our political system where many in office believe that the interests of corporations rule supremely and that the rest of us are irrelevant?