Submitted January 2, 2014.
Multnomah County Circuit Court. 110303767. O. Meredith Wilson, Jr., Judge pro tempore.
Willard E. Merkel filed the brief for appellant.
No appearance for respondent.
Before Ortega, Presiding Judge, and Duncan, Judge, and DeVore, Judge.
[262 Or.App. 314] DEVORE, J.
Faced with a contest between defendant's motion for summary judgment, seeking dismissal with prejudice, and plaintiff's notice of voluntary dismissal without prejudice, the trial court entered an order that purported to grant both. The court followed with a judgment that dismissed plaintiff's case with prejudice. Plaintiff appeals and assigns error to the court's dismissal with prejudice. We reverse and remand.
Although the procedural course of this case is not simple, the procedural facts are not disputed, and the resolution is not complicated. Plaintiff had filed an earlier action for personal injury arising from a chemical hair treatment at a beauty salon. The prior action named as defendant another person, Cua Nguyen, who had appeared as the salon's owner in the records of the Oregon Corporation Division. The prior action was dismissed. This action was filed alleging the same injury but alleging instead that defendant Lam operated the salon and was negligent in applying the hair treatment. Plaintiff took a default against defendant. Disputing service of summons, defendant prompted the court to set aside the default order and judgment. Defendant continued to dispute service of summons when she filed a motion for summary judgment and added that she had not been served within the two-year period prescribed by ORS 12.110(1). Defendant sought dismissal with prejudice.
A week before the hearing on the motion for summary judgment and about three weeks before trial, plaintiff filed a notice of voluntary dismissal pursuant to ORCP 54 A(1). At the hearing on defendant's motion, plaintiff argued, in effect, that her notice of dismissal upstaged consideration of summary judgment. She said that her notice " ends the matter" and that there was not " anything to hear today." Plaintiff explained that she intended to refile the action under the " savings statute," ORS 12.220. Defendant rejoined that, notwithstanding the part of ORCP 54 A allowing dismissal without prejudice, another part of the rule provides that the court may dismiss with prejudice if the [262 Or.App. 315] claim has been previously filed. The trial court agreed that defendant was entitled to dismissal with prejudice. Treating plaintiff's notice of dismissal as a request, the court entered an order granting defendant's motion and " granting" plaintiff's notice. The court's judgment dismissed the case with prejudice.
On appeal, plaintiff contends that the trial court erred in construing ORCP 54 A(1). In relevant part, ORCP 54 A(1) provides:
" [A] plaintiff may dismiss an action in its entirety or as to one or more defendants without order of court: (a) by filing a notice of dismissal with the court and serving such notice on all other parties not in default not less than five days prior to the day of trial if no counterclaim has been pleaded[.] Unless otherwise stated in the notice of dismissal or stipulation, the dismissal is without prejudice, except that a notice of dismissal operates as an adjudication upon the merits when filed by a plaintiff who has once dismissed in any court of the United States or of any state an action against the same parties on or including the same claim unless the court directs that the dismissal shall be without prejudice. Upon notice of dismissal or stipulation under this subsection, a party shall submit a form of judgment and the court shall enter a judgment of dismissal."
We read this rule of civil procedure as we would read a statute. State v. Arnold, 320 Ore 111, 119, 879 P.2d 1272 (1994); Guerin v. Beamer, 163 Ore App 172, 174, 986 P.2d 1241 (1999). Its plain text provides that, when a defendant has pleaded no counterclaim and trial is five days or more away, a plaintiff may file a notice that serves to dismiss plaintiff's action. The term " notice" does not denote a request or a motion. Rather, notice of dismissal precipitates a judgment of dismissal, and ordinarily that " dismissal is without prejudice" to refiling the action. When considering the rule, this court has observed, " The legislative history of ORCP 54 A(1) reflects a considered policy choice to permit a plaintiff to dismiss his or her action even though the defendant's summary judgment motion is pending." Guerin, 163 Ore App at 177 (footnote omitted); see also Palmquist v. FLIR Systems, Inc., 189 Ore App 552, 558, 77 P.3d 637 (2003), rev den, 336 Ore. 376, 84 P.3d 1080 (2004) (notice of dismissal avoiding summary judgment); [262 Or.App. 316] Maxwell v. Stebbins, 180 Ore App 48, 53, 42 P.3d 336 (2002) (allowing dismissal under ORCP 54 A(1) despite pending motions under ORCP 14 and ORCP 21).
The exception within ORCP 54 A(1) provides that, unless the court directs otherwise, dismissal is to be with prejudice if the ...