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Wilson v. Gutierrez

Court of Appeals of Oregon

February 26, 2014

LUPE WILSON and AURORA GUTIERREZ, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
FRANCISCO GUTIERREZ, JR., Defendant-Respondent

Argued and Submitted February 8, 2013

Page 975

Linn County Circuit Court. CE07361. John A. McCormick, Judge.

Marianne Dugan argued the cause and filed the brief for appellants.

No appearance for respondent.

Before Duncan, Presiding Judge, and Wollheim, Judge, and Schuman, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Page 976

[261 Or.App. 411] WOLLHEIM, J.

Plaintiffs appeal from a judgment in this forcible entry and wrongful detainer (FED) action, in which the trial court awarded plaintiffs possession of the residential real property in dispute but also awarded defendant $30,000 on his counterclaim for unjust enrichment. Plaintiffs assign error to the trial court's ruling on the unjust enrichment counterclaim, arguing that there was insufficient evidence in the record to support defendant's counterclaim and no evidentiary basis for the amount of damages awarded. Defendant did not file an answering brief.[1] For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

Unjust enrichment is an equitable doctrine. Speciality Risk Services v. Royal Indemnity Co., 213 Or.App. 620, 625, 164 P.3d 300 (2007). We have discretion to review equitable cases de novo, but we only do so in exceptional cases. ORS 19.415(3)(b); ORAP 5.40(8)(c). It is not clear whether plaintiffs request de novo review. Regardless, this is not an exceptional case where we would exercise our discretion to review the record de novo . " We therefore review the trial court's legal conclusions for errors of law and are bound by the trial court's factual findings if they are supported by any evidence in the record." Emerson v. Kusano, 260 Or.App. 577, 581, 320 P.3d 610 (2014). " [W]e view the evidence, as supplemented and buttressed by permissible derivative inferences, in the light most favorable to the trial court's disposition and assess whether, when so viewed, the record was legally sufficient to permit that outcome." Dept. of Human Services v. N. P., 257 Or.App. 633, 639, 307 P.3d 444 (2013) (applying our general standard of review of factual findings in the context of a juvenile dependency case).

We summarize the relevant facts from the trial court's findings and the record. Plaintiffs are defendant's mother, Aurora Gutierrez (mother), and defendant's sister, Lupe Wilson (Wilson), who had power of attorney for mother. Mother, 83 years old at the time of trial, owned two houses, one in Sweet Home, where she resided, and one in Albany, [261 Or.App. 412] which she purchased in the 1960s with her husband for use as a rental property. Defendant began living in the Albany house around 1990 with his understanding that, in lieu of paying rent, he would pay for the utilities, insurance, and property taxes on the house, and provide financial support as needed to his parents, and that, in exchange, mother would give him the deed to the house after defendant's father died. Plaintiffs disputed that there was any such arrangement. It is undisputed that defendant made house-related payments and other payments to mother between 1997 and 2006, but that, as of July 2007, mother owed unpaid property taxes of $7,252. To pay the deficient property taxes, mother cosigned with defendant for a loan, using her Sweet Home house as collateral. Because mother did not have a checking account, the proceeds of the loan were deposited into defendant's checking account. Subsequently, some of the payments that defendant made to mother and on her behalf came from those loan proceeds.

Mother became concerned about her financial situation and the risk of foreclosure on her Sweet Home house, and she decided to sell the Albany property. Wilson helped mother prepare and serve a notice on defendant on June 8, 2007, terminating his tenancy on July 14, 2007. Defendant did not leave the Albany property, and plaintiffs brought this FED proceeding on July 18, 2007.

In response to the FED claim, defendant alleged three counterclaims: unjust enrichment, specific performance of an oral contract, and constructive trust. As relevant to this appeal, defendant alleged in his unjust enrichment counterclaim ...


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