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PGE v. Ebasco Services, Inc.

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 02-08-2012
Case #: A143752
Hadlock, J. for the court; Ortega, P.J.; & Sercombe, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://courts.oregon.gov/Publications/A143752.pdf

Civil Procedure: A court may not enter a judgment awarding more damages than the plaintiff sought in its complaint, unless the party against whom the judgment will be entered had reasonable notice and an opportunity to be heard.

PGE settled a suit with a previous employee for exposure to asbestos in one of PGE’s plants. PGE sued defendant Ebasco Services, Inc., (Ebasco) one of its insurers, claiming that its refusal to indemnify PGE in the asbestos claim was a breach of its policies. Ebasco was never properly served and the trial court granted PGE’s motion for a default judgment. Ebasco moved to set aside the default judgment based on excusable neglect, which the trial court denied. On appeal, Ebasco raised an unpreserved argument that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter the default judgment, because PGE’s complaint did not specify the specific amount of monetary damages sought, only that it sought reimbursement for a “reasonable” amount. The Court of Appeals agreed, holding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter a default judgment because the trial court could not award more damages than PGE sought in its complaint and that “reasonable” reimbursement was insufficient notice to Ebasco that PGE sought to recover any particular amount of damages from the insurance company. Reversed and remanded.