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Halperin v. Pitts

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 10-04-2012
Case #: S059505
Landau, J. for the Court; En Banc.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.courts.oregon.gov/Publications/docs/S059505.pdf

Attorney Fees: Pursuant to ORS 20.080(2), defendants who prevail in small tort actions do not need to have delivered a prelitigation demand letter in order to obtain attorney fees.

Pitts appealed the Oregon Court of Appeals decision denying him attorney fees. Pitts and Halperin own adjacent land parcels, and filed cross claims for trespass. After the Court of Appeals found Halperin liable for trespass, Pitts petitioned the court for attorney fees. Halperin, however, argued that Pitts' request was invalid because Pitts had not sent an attorney fee demand letter prior to filing the original counterclaim. The court agreed with Halperin, holding that, while ORS 20.080(2) does not specifically state that a defendant must deliver a prelitigation demand letter, Bennet v. Minson later read such a requirement into the statute. The Oregon Supreme Court, however, reversed the court's decision, holding that nothing in ORS 20.080(2)'s text, context, or legislative history imposed such a prelitigation notice requirement on defendants in small tort claims and the requirement as stated in Bennet was dicta that the Court was not obligated to follow. Reversed and remanded.