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Chase v. Hansen

August 2, 1973

CHASE, RESPONDENT,
v.
HANSEN, APPELLANT



Appeal from Circuit Court, Jackson County. James M. Main, Judge.

Walter D. Nunley, Medford, argued the cause and filed briefs for appellant.

William V. Deatherage, Medford, argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Frohnmayer & Deatherage, Medford.

In Banc. Holman, J.

Holman

This is an action by an attorney to recover fees for services rendered to the defendant and others arising primarily out of representation before the Federal Communications Commission. Defendant appeals from a judgment for plaintiff pursuant to a jury verdict.

Plaintiff sought recovery under the theories of express contract, account stated, and quantum meruit.

Defendant answered with a general denial and the affirmative defense that the fees were the obligations of others and the statute of frauds therefore applied. The case was consolidated for trial with an action by plaintiff for the recovery of fees from W. H. Hansen, the father of the present defendant. In most instances the services which generated the claim in each case were the same. A judgment was also secured against the father, but it was not appealed.

Defendant's father had interests in various radio stations and in applications for permission to operate radio stations in southern Oregon and northern California. He had been represented for years by plaintiff, who specialized in and practiced communication law in Washington, D.C. The father came under investigation in the late 1960's because of alleged misrepresentations to the Federal Communications Commission and violation of its regulations. As a result, the father's applications for and his interests in the radio stations became jeopardized.

Defendant was the record owner of Station KCNO in Alturas, California, and his permit to operate that station also became jeopardized because the Commission claimed his father to be the actual owner of that station. KCNO was the most valuable of all the properties because it was the only station which was in actual and profitable operation. The principal bases for questioning the defendant's actual ownership of KCNO were (1) defendant's father furnished the money for the purchase of the station and (2) he operated it and took all the profits. The defendant did not live in Alturas, the location of the station, but in Medford, Oregon, where he taught school.

At the conclusion of the Commission's investigations,

formal charges were filed against both father and son and also against the father and other shareholders of Medford Broadcasters, Inc., one of the stations in which defendant's father had an interest. A joint hearing was ordered in Medford and Alturas on all matters of interest to defendant's father as well as on defendant's permit to operate KCNO. When it was learned that KCNO and defendant would be parties to the hearing, it was decided that plaintiff should represent defendant as well as most of the other parties to the proceeding. Most of the fees and expenses in question arose out of preparation for and the trial and appeal of these hearings. The original hearing resulted in a refusal to renew the license to operate KCNO.

The primary issue in the case was the nature of the fee arrangement. Plaintiff contended there was an agreement that he receive his actual expenses and $50 per hour for his time and that all parties to the hearing whom he represented would be responsible for his entire fee because of the difficulty in apportioning his charges. Defendant contended the agreement provided plaintiff was to receive a percentage of whatever interest he was successful in salvaging or acquiring with the exception of KCNO. Defendant and his father claimed it was understood that defendant and KCNO had no responsibility for any fees whatsoever because it was primarily the alleged transgressions of his father which had caused defendant to have problems with the relicensing of KCNO.

The first assignments of error pertain to the admission of testimony that KCNO was worth $150,000, had annual earnings of as high as $34,000, and that ...


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