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The Hoag Living Trust v. Hoag

Court of Appeals of Oregon

May 31, 2018

THE HOAG LIVING TRUST dated February 4, 2013, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
James Jay HOAG, an individual, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued and submitted January 12, 2016

          Clackamas County Circuit Court CV13050191; A157069 Katherine E. Weber, Judge.

         Robert A. Kerr argued the cause for appellant. With him on the brief was Kerr Law Offce P.C.

         David A. Anderson argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were W. Michael Gillette and Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, P.C.

          Before DeVore, Presiding Judge, and Lagesen, Judge, and Ja mes, Judge. [*]

         [292 Or. 35] Case Summary:

         This dispute involves a family's conflicting claims to a parcel of property. Defendant appeals a general judgment entered after the trial court granted plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on its claims for quiet title and injunctive relief. The court also granted summary judgment to plaintiff on defendant's counterclaims for breach of contract, fraud, unjust enrichment, quantum meruit, and quiet title. On appeal, defendant argues that the trial court erred because there were genuine issues of material fact that precluded summary judgment. Held: The court did not err in granting summary judgment to plaintiff on its claim for quiet title and on defendant's counterclaims for breach of contract, quiet title, and fraud. However, due to the existence of disputed material facts, the court erred by dismissing defendant's counterclaims for unjust enrichment and quantum meruit and by granting plaintiff's claim for injunctive relief.

         Portions of judgment granting plaintiff injunctive relief and dismissing defendant's counterclaims for unjust enrichment and quantum meruit reversed and remanded; otherwise affirmed.

          [292 Or. 36] DeVORE, P. J.

         This dispute involves a family's conflicting claims to a parcel of property. Defendant appeals a general judgment entered after the trial court granted plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's claims for quiet title and for injunctive relief. The court also granted summary judgment for plaintiff against defendant's counterclaims for breach of contract, fraud, unjust enrichment, quantum mer-uit, and quiet title. Among other things, defendant argues that the trial court erred because there are genuine issues of material fact on the claims and counterclaims. We agree only in part. We affirm the judgment granting plaintiff's claim to quiet title and dismissal of defendant's counterclaims for fraud, breach of contract, and quiet title; but, due to disputed facts, we reverse the judgment as to dismissal of defendant's counterclaims for unjust enrichment and quantum meruit; and we reverse and remand the judgment granting plaintiffs claim for injunctive relief.

         Plaintiff is the Hoag Living Trust (the "Trust"). James F. Hoag ("Jim") and Muriel Hoag ("Muriel") are husband and wife and are settlors of the Trust. They have two children, Patti Hoag ("Patti") and J. Jay Hoag ("Jay"). Jim, Muriel, and Patti are trustees of the Trust. Jim's mother and Jay's grandmother is Bonnie Sproul ("Bonnie"). Jay is the defendant.

         Several adjacent tax lots, Lot 2500, Lot 2404, and Lot 2401, have been owned by Hoag family members or their trusts for many years. In about 1983, defendant's grandmother Bonnie purchased Lot 2500. Shortly after she purchased the lot, Jay signed an agreement to pay monthly rent, and he moved onto Lot 2500. In 2006, Bonnie conveyed her interest in the lot to Jay with a right of survivorship, and, in 2009, she died.

         In the meantime, Jim and Muriel had held title to Lot 2404. In 2013, they conveyed Lot 2404 to the Trust as part of their estate plan. Lot 2404 is the locus of this dispute. Jay acknowledged that the Trust holds title, but he claims a right to Lot 2404, based on an oral agreement that he alleges he reached with Jim, Muriel, and Bonnie over 30 years ago. Jay claims that, under an unwritten family [292 Or. 37] plan, Lots 2500, 2404, and 2401 would be conveyed to him "if he made payments towards the expenses of those lots and maintained and improved them."

         In 1992, however, Jim and Muriel sold Lot 2401 (the "Eastern Property") to third parties in order that Jim could pay a judgment debt. Jay objected, believing the sale to be contrary to the oral agreement.

         Around 2006, Jim and Muriel listed Lot 2404 for sale, and they found a prospective buyer, but the sale did not close, because Lot 2404 was not zoned for building a residence on the property. As a consequence, Jim and Muriel filed a Measure 37/49 claim.[1] Jim and Muriel signed the claim paperwork, which identified them, but not Jay, as the titled owners of the property.

         Lot 2404 is landlocked. It is bordered by a creek to the east, steep cliffs to the north, property owned by third parties to the south, and Jay's Lot 2500 to the west. Jay describes Lot 2404 as an eight-acre parcel that is a "park" that he has maintained for 30 years.[2] He recounts that he has mowed the property, removed branches and fallen trees, done road maintenance, and kept drainage ditches clear. He says that he has dug holes for septic systems, constructed drainage systems, devised a system for fish passage in the creek, and built a bridge over the creek. Jay says that he made payments to his grandmother Bonnie and his father Jim for taxes and insurance on both Lots 2500 and 2404. Jay says that his parents made repeated representations to him, as recently as 2012, that he would receive Lot 2404 under the family succession plan.

         Access to Lot 2404 is accomplished on a road on an easement over Lot 2500-an easement that Jim and Muriel had been granted in 1989. In March 2013, Jim used the road, removed Jay's gate, and installed another gate. In the process, Jim and Jay engaged in a heated confrontation.

         [292 Or. 38] In May 2013, the Trust filed a complaint to quiet title to Lot 2404 and to secure an injunction preventing Jay from interfering with the easement. Jay denied most of the Trust's allegations, alleged affirmative defenses, and asserted counterclaims for breach of contract, fraud, unjust enrichment, quantum meruit, and quiet title. Jay alleged that he is entitled to own Lot 2404 based on the alleged oral agreement he made over 30 years ago with Jim, Muriel, and Bonnie. Jay alleged that Jim, Muriel, and Bonnie had agreed that he could "reside on Lot 2500 and that Lots 2404 and 2500 would later be conveyed to him if he made payments towards the expenses of those lots and maintained and improved them." Jay alleged that, in reliance on that agreement, he moved onto Lot 2500 about 30 years ago and thereafter made payments toward mortgage, taxes, and other expenses of Lots 2404 and 2500. Alternatively, Jay alleged that the Trust has been unjustly enriched because it had received, but had not compensated or repaid him for, among other things, money, labor, and equipment that Jay had provided to the Trust for Lot 2404. The Trust replied, asserting laches, the statute of limitations, and the statute of frauds, among other defenses.

         The Trust moved for summary judgment on all claims and counterclaims, supported by declarations, exhibits, Jay's deposition, and the deed showing that the Trust holds recorded title to Lot 2404. Among other things, the Trust argued that the statute of frauds and statute of limitations barred Jay's claims that depended on the alledged oral agreement.

         Jay opposed the Trust's motion for summary judgment. Jay submitted declarations and exhibits showing, among other things, that he had paid for property-related expenses, such as taxes, insurance, and equipment, related to Lot 2404. Taken together, Jay argued that the evidence created a genuine issue of material fact on all of the claims and counterclaims. In addition, Jay moved, pursuant to ORCP 47 F, to continue the summary judgment hearing until later so that he could conduct further discovery.

         The trial court denied Jay's motion for continuance and granted the Trust's motion for summary judgment on [292 Or. 39] its claims and Jay's counterclaims. On the Trust's first claim seeking quiet title, the court concluded that the Trust was the owner in fee simple of Lot 2404 and entitled to possession of the property. On the Trust's second claim, the court concluded that the Trust was entitled to a permanent injunction barring Jay from interfering with the Trust's easement. Lastly, the court concluded that Jay's counterclaims were based on an unwritten agreement for the transfer of land and were barred by the statute of frauds.

         Jay raises three assignments of error on appeal. First, he argues that the court erred in granting the Trust's motion for summary judgment. Second, he argues the court abused its discretion in denying his continuance motion. Third, he argues that the court erred in granting the preliminary and permanent injunctions. We reject without discussion Jay's second assignment of error regarding a continuance. We discuss the assorted issues posed by his first assignment of error. We conclude that the statute of frauds warrants quieting title in favor of the Trust and rejecting Jay's counterclaim for breach of contract. We conclude, however, that the statute of frauds does not bar Jay's quasi-contract counterclaims; and that, as far as can be determined on summary judgment, the doctrine of laches and the statute of limitations do not bar Jay's counterclaims for unjust enrichment and quantum meruit. We conclude that Jay's counterclaim for fraud in the inducement fails as a matter of law on its merits. Finally, as to the third assignment, we conclude that questions of fact preclude summary judgment on the Trust's claim for injunctive relief.

         Because this case comes to us on summary judgment, we review the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party to determine whether there are any genuine issues of material fact and whether the Trust is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. ORCP 47 C; Jones v. General Motors Corp., 325 Or. 404, 420, 939 P.2d 608 (1997).

         As to part of Jay's first assignment, we agree with the trial court that the statute of frauds justified summary judgment in the Trust's favor on the conflicting claims to quiet title and against Jay's breach of contract counterclaim. [292 Or. 40] See ORS 41.580(1)(e) (statute of frauds); ORS 93.020(1) (writing required). Jay admits that there was no writing that set forth the family plan, but he asserts part performance of the plan, and he points to an undated letter from Bonnie, which he says "confirms [his] role in the family plan." We find his arguments unpersuasive.

         As for the letter, it does not purport to express the terms, let alone the entirety, of the family plan, and, even if it had done so, the property description is inadequate. Bonnie's letter refers to "the Hatton Road Property" and says "I'm giving you the property" to more than make up for working at minimum wage in the jewelry store. Bonnie did give Jay Lot 2500, and it had a Hatton Road address. The disputed Lot 2404 also bordered on Hatton Road, but Jay's declaration says that the family considered Lot 2404 and 2401 as "Wilsada Park." On appeal, the parties dispute whether the letter could be interpreted to refer to Lot 2404, because they dispute whether Bonnie had ever actually received title to the property. That dispute is immaterial, however, because, on its face, the property description in the letter is too ambiguous.

         In High v. Davis,283 Or. 315, 326, 584 P.2d 725 (1978), the Supreme ...


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