and submitted October 6, 2015.
County Circuit Court C133267CV; D. Charles Bailey, Jr.,
Willard E. Merkel argued the cause for appellant. With him on
the briefs was Merkel & Associates.
R. Bachofner argued the cause and fled the brief for
Duncan, Presiding Judge, and DeVore, Judge, and Flynn, Judge
plaintiff accepted defendant's offer to allow judgment
pursuant to ORCP 54 E, defendant fled a motion to use the
interpleader process of ORCP 31 to resolve third-party
interests in the settlement. The trial court allowed that
motion and entered a judgment reflecting that ruling as well
as a supplemental judgment awarding attorney fees under ORCP
31 C for defendant's time pursuing interpleader.
Plaintiff appeals both judgments, arguing that the trial
court lacked authority to "hear and grant" the
motion for interpleader once the offer to allow judgment was
accepted. Held: The trial court erred in granting
the motion for interpleader. Once an offer of judgment under
ORCP 54 E has been made and accepted, the court's
authority is limited to entering judgment according to the
terms to which the parties have agreed and, when necessary,
resolving disputes regarding the terms to which the parties
have agreed. The court lacked authority to order interpleader
here, because that process for resolving third-party claims
varied from the terms to which the parties had agreed, at a
minimum, by giving defendant an automatic right to recover
attorney fees from plaintiff, which was not a term of the
accepted offer of judgment. Thus, the supplemental judgment
is reversed. However, the Court of Appeals declined to reach
plaintiff's challenge to the general judgment because the
trial court has since released the full amount of the
interpleaded funds to plaintiff, and plaintiff identified no
practical effect that a decision by the court could have on
plaintiff's rights under the general judgment.
judgment reversed; otherwise affirmed.
J. pro tempore
appeals from a corrected general judgment and from a
supplemental judgment awarding attorney fees, which the trial
court entered after plaintiff accepted defendant's offer
to allow judgment, pursuant to ORCP 54 E. The challenged
judgments reflect the trial court's post-acceptance
ruling allowing defendant to use the interpleader process of
ORCP 31 to resolve third-party interests in the settlement
and ordering plaintiff to pay defendant's attorney fees.
Plaintiff contends that the court exceeded its authority
under ORCP 54 E by "hearing and then granting"
defendant's motion for interpleader because the terms of
defendant's offer did not provide for interpleader.
Defendant contends that the order for interpleader is
"consistent" with the terms of the offer of
judgment. We conclude that the court erred in granting
defendant's motion, because the ruling resulted in
judgments that varied from the terms of the offer of
judgment. Accordingly, we reverse the supplemental judgment
and otherwise affirm.
AND ORCP 54 E
pause to provide a brief overview of the two rules of civil
procedure that are at the heart of this dispute. As pertinent
to this appeal, ORCP 54 E allows the party against whom a
claim has been asserted to serve an "offer to allow
judgment to be entered against the party making the
offer" for the sum of money or other relief specified in
the offer. ORCP 54 E(1). The offer serves at least two
purposes. If the claiming party accepts the offer and files
it under the process described in the rule, ORCP 54 E(2)
specifies that, "thereupon judgment shall be given
accordingly as a stipulated judgment." The offer to
allow judgment can also serve to cut off a party's
potential liability for costs and fees if the claiming party
rejects the offer; if the claiming party prevails at an
adjudication but fails to obtain a judgment more favorable
than the offer to allow judgment, then that party "shall
not recover costs, prevailing party fees, disbursements, or
attorney fees incurred after the date of the
interpleader process of ORCP 31 permits a party that is
concerned about potential "double or multiple
liability" to bring all competing claims before the
court and to let the court sort out the competing claims.
ORCP 31 A. As used here, the rule allows a party to deposit
with the court property or an amount of money for which the
party admits it is liable. The rule then allows the party to
obtain both a discharge of liability and an order requiring
any parties with interests in the money to resolve their
claims only through interpleader in the existing action.
See ORCP 31 B. The rule also provides that "the
party filing suit or action in ...