When a protester sued Portland after being injured by a police flash-bang grenade, city attorneys came up with a novel defense: a loophole in Oregon’s tort law that they said absolved the city of financial responsibility for “any claim arising out of riot.”
On June 28, a U.S. District Judge Michael Simon threw out that argument. Simon sided with a magistrate judge who determined in April that the intent of the loophole was only to help government’s obtain liability insurance by absolving them of financial responsibility for damage caused by rioters.
“So far as we can tell from the history of this state, police officers have never enjoyed such an immunity,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Julie A. Rosso noted. “The text, context, and legislative history of [the Oregon Tort Claims Act] is at odds with the City’s assertion of immunity.”
Meghan Opbroek was hospitalized after a flash grenade “blew off chunks of her flesh“ during protests in North Portland in June 2020, according to a legal complaint she filed in 2022. She accused the police of excessive force and the city of negligence.
City attorneys asked Judge Simon to refer the question of the intent of the state tort law to the Oregon Supreme Court. Simon noted the city hadn’t even proved the events of 2020 constituted a “riot” in the first place, and declined the request.