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Ferguson v. PeaceHealth

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 08-31-2011
Case #: A142083
Sercombe, J. for the Court; Ortega, P.J.; & Landau, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/A142083.pdf

Appellate Procedure: A sanction for contempt may not be appealed from until a final judgment has been entered.

The Fergusons brought a negligence action against PeaceHealth for issuing a prescription drug that harmed their daughter. The trial court ordered the parties to refrain from contacting the press. Shortly thereafter, PeaceHealth alerted the court that Mrs. Ferguson posted a comment about the trial on a blog. The court summarily imposed a punitive sanction for contempt and required that Mrs. Ferguson pay a fine before the trial proceeded, which she did. The jury found in favor of PeaceHealth. The Fergusons appealed after their motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict for a new trial was denied. The Fergusons argued that the trial court erred in imposing a punitive sanction for contempt on Mrs. Ferguson because she did not knowingly violate the court’s order. The Court of Appeals held that when a court imposes a punitive sanction for contempt, the judgment of contempt is separate from the judgment of the related proceeding. Because the sanction was not yet reduced to a judgment, the issue was not properly before the Court of Appeals. Affirmed.