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Bedford v. Merety Monger Trust

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 08-22-2012
Case #: A146562
Nakamoto, J., for the Court; Schuman, P.J.; and Wollheim, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/Publications/A146562.pdf

Attorney Fees: For purposes of ORS 20.080, which grants attorney fees for small claims, the relief sought by alternative theories of relief is not aggregated to see if the relief sought exceeds the maximum for ORS 20.080. On the other hand, multiple claims arising from the same operative facts are aggregated.

Merety Monger Trust (Merety) appealed the supplemental judgment for attorney fees granted to Bedford arising out of a small tort claim. Bedford sued Merety for shutting off a pipeline for water from a creek, and prevailed at trial. Under ORS 20.080 Bedford was entitled to attorney fees. Merety cites as error the trial court's award of fees because ORS 20.080 (as operative in 2007) only grants attorney fees if the total relief sought is under $5,500., and Bedford's pleadings included two claims arising out of the disabled pipeline that added up to more than that. Bedford claimed, and the trial court found, however, that the two were alternative theories of relief and the awards were not cumulative. The Court of Appeals found that Merety's concessions that the two claims were "alternative theories for the same objective" and Bedford's proposed judgment only accepting the award for one claim, despite a jury finding for both claims, supported the conclusion that they were not meant to be aggregated and the total requested relief was $5,000. Thus, attorney fees were proper. Affirmed.