AIR RESCUE SYSTEMS CORPORATION and Brim Equipment Leasing, Inc., Plaintiffs,
Linda LEWIS, Defendant-Appellant. and Burl BRIM, Plaintiff-Respondent,
and submitted September 26, 2017
Jackson County Circuit Court 15CN02970; Ronald D. Grensky,
Michael E. Rose argued the cause for appellant. With him on
the briefs was Creighton & Rose, P.C.
E. Kellerman argued the cause for respondent. On the brief
were Melisa A. Button and Hornecker Cowling LLP.
DeHoog, Presiding Judge, and Egan, Chief Judge, and Aoyagi,
appeals from a judgment holding her in contempt of court for
violating an oral settlement agreement with plaintiffs. The
parties read the terms of their oral settlement agreement
into the record in open court with the intention of later
reducing it to writing. The parties were unable to agree on a
form of written settlement agreement and, in the meantime,
defendant violated the oral agreement. On plaintiffs'
motion, the trial court entered judgment against defendant
for "willful contempt of the Settlement Agreement that
was put on the record." Defendant appeals.
Held: The trial court erred in holding defendant in
contempt for violating the oral settlement agreement. Reading
the oral settlement agreement into the record in open court
did not give it the effect of a court order or, in these
circumstances, otherwise render it an appropriate basis for
holding defendant in contempt of court.
Or.App. 295] AOYAGI, J.
appeals a contempt judgment. Plaintiffs brought a civil
action against defendant, and later filed this separate but
related contempt action. The parties eventually reached an
oral settlement agreement regarding their outstanding
disputes, the terms of which they read into the record in
open court. The parties intended to reduce their oral
agreement to writing but failed to do so. Meanwhile,
according to plaintiffs, defendant violated the oral
agreement. On plaintiffs' motion, the trial court held a
contempt hearing, after which it entered a judgment against
defendant for "willful contempt of the Settlement
Agreement that was put on the record on December 3." We
agree with defendant that the trial court lacked authority to
hold her in contempt for violating the settlement agreement.
Accordingly, we reverse.
relevant facts are undisputed and largely procedural.
Plaintiff Brim is an individual residing in Jackson County,
and the other plaintiffs are corporations with which Brim is
affiliated. Defendant is an individual residing in Alaska. In
connection with a personal dispute, defendant began making
negative statements about plaintiffs on the internet and
elsewhere. Plaintiffs brought a civil action against
defendant for defamation, intentional interference with
economic relations, and false light. Plaintiffs sought both
damages and injunctive relief.
2015, defendant stipulated to entry of a preliminary
injunction in the civil action. Defendant was enjoined from
making any new communications to third parties about
plaintiffs and from publishing any statements about
plaintiffs on the internet, via email, or otherwise. In
October 2015, plaintiffs filed this contempt action, seeking
to have defendant held in contempt for violating the
preliminary injunction. The trial court held a hearing on the
matter on December 3, 2015.
a recess at the hearing, the parties reached an oral
settlement agreement to resolve both the civil action [292
Or.App. 296] and the contempt matter. Counsel notified the
court of the settlement after recess, and plaintiffs'
counsel read the terms of the settlement into the record,
with some clarifications by defendant's counsel.
Essentially, the parties agreed that they would prepare a
written settlement agreement, including mutual releases, and
that, in conjunction with that agreement, defendant would
stipulate to a permanent injunction and plaintiffs would
stipulate to dismissal of their claims. The court would
retain jurisdiction to enforce the permanent injunction
through contempt proceedings. Both Brim and defendant
personally affirmed on the record that they agreed to be
bound by the settlement terms as represented to the court.
Defendant, through counsel, also agreed to begin removing her
negative online postings about plaintiffs because, as
plaintiffs' counsel put it, there was "no reason for
delay on that."
the end of the proceeding, the trial court pointedly told
defendant, who had not been entirely cooperative with
proceedings up to that juncture, that it would not look
favorably on her trying to get ...