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Brim v. Lewis

Court of Appeals of Oregon

June 6, 2018

Burl BRIM, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
Linda LEWIS Defendant-Appellant, and AIR RESCUE SYSTEMS CORPORATION; and Brim Equipment Leasing, Inc., dba Brim Aviation, Plaintiffs, and James LEWIS, Defendant.

          Argued and submitted April 5, 2018

          Jackson County Circuit Court 15CV09360 Ronald D. Grensky, Judge.

          Michael E. Rose argued the cause for appellant. With him on the briefs was Creighton & Rose, P. C.

          Joseph E. Kellerman argued the cause for respondent. On the brief was Melisa A. Button.

          Before Hadlock, Presiding Judge, and DeHoog, Judge, and Aoyagi, Judge.

         Case Summary:

         Defendant appeals from a stipulated judgment entered pursuant to an oral settlement agreement read into the record in open court. The trial court entered the judgment on plaintiffs' motion, over defendant's objection to several of its specifc terms. Defendant appeals, asserting that the trial court erred in entering a stipulated judgment that contains terms materially different than those to which she agreed in open court. Held: The trial court erred in entering a stipulated judgment under ORCP 67 F that included terms that were materially different than those to which defendant assented in open court.

         Reversed and remanded.

         [292 Or. 302] AOYAGI, J.

         In this civil action, the parties reached a settlement agreement, the terms of which they read into the record in open court, and the trial court later entered a judgment based on that settlement. Defendant objected to the form of the judgment as containing terms materially different from the settlement agreement. Defendant appeals the judgment. For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand.

         The relevant facts are undisputed and largely procedural. Plaintiff Brim is an individual residing in Jackson County. 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 this action against defendant for defamation, intentional interference with economic relations, and false light. Plaintiffs sought both damages and injunctive relief.

         In June 2015, defendant stipulated to entry of a preliminary injunction that enjoined her from making any new communications to third parties about plaintiffs and from publishing any statements about plaintiffs on the internet, via email, or otherwise. A few months later, plaintiffs filed a contempt action against defendant, seeking to have her held in contempt for violating the preliminary injunction.[1]In December 2015, the parties reached an oral settlement agreement to resolve both this action and the contempt matter. They read the terms of their oral agreement into the record at a hearing in the contempt action. At the time, they intended to reduce their agreement to writing and offer a proposed judgment to the court in the near future.

         The parties were unable, however, to agree on the form of a written settlement agreement. Meanwhile, defendant engaged in conduct that plaintiffs viewed as violating the oral settlement agreement. Plaintiffs took two actions to address defendant's alleged violation of the oral settlement [292 Or. 303] agreement. First, plaintiffs sought and obtained a contempt judgment in the contempt action, holding defendant in contempt for "willfully failing to comply with the Settlement Agreement." Air Rescue Systems Corp. v. Lewis, 292 Or.App. 294, ___, ___P.3d___(2018) (reversing contempt judgment). Second, plaintiffs sought and obtained a general judgment in this action. In their motion for entry of that judgment, plaintiffs argued that the parties' agreement had resolved all disputes between them, yet defendant "refuses to consummate the transactions agreed to by the settlement on the record." Plaintiffs offered to the court a proposed judgment that they described as "fully consistent" with the parties' settlement agreement. It included as an attachment a copy of an unsigned draft written settlement agreement. Defendant filed written objections to the proposed form of judgment. Defendant asserted that the proposed judgment and attached unsigned agreement "depart in material ways from the terms the parties agreed to."

         The trial court held a hearing on plaintiffs' motion in March 2016. The court remarked that, given defendant's "five pages of objections, " it appeared that the parties did not have a settlement after all, had never reached a meeting of the minds, and should go to trial. The court stated that it would not go through each of defendant's objections to "try to distinguish between fallacious arguments or not fallacious arguments." In lieu of "sorting out [defendant's] objections to judgment, " the court asked plaintiffs' counsel about the possibility of ...


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