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Sugiyama v. Arnold

Court of Appeals of Oregon

October 24, 2018

Chihiro SUGIYAMA, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Shane ARNOLD, et al, Defendants, and TEKTRONIX, INC., Defendant-Respondent.

          Argued and submitted September 6, 2018

          Washington County Circuit Court 16CV11731 Theodore E. Sims, Judge.

          Bartley E. Herron argued the cause for appellant. Also on the brief was Herron Law, LLC.

          Joshua P. Stump argued the cause for respondent. Also on the brief was Joseph W. Carlisle.

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

         Case Summary:

         Plaintiff appeals a general judgment dismissing her negligence claims against defendant and imposing a $500 discovery sanction on defendant. On the day set for trial, the parties met in chambers "at some length." Afterwards, the trial court stated on the record that plaintiff's claims would be dismissed in a final judgment and that a $500 discovery sanction would be imposed on defendant. No one objected. A month later, plaintiff argued for the first time that the court had improperly granted summary judgment sua sponte in chambers and had unilaterally imposed a nominal discovery sanction. Defendant disagreed and asserted that the parties had reached a voluntary settlement in chambers. The court, which also recalled what occurred in chambers as a settlement, entered a general judgment consistent with its prior oral statement. Plaintiff appeals, arguing that the trial court committed an error of law by granting summary judgment sua sponte and abused its discretion by imposing an inadequate discovery sanction. Held: There is no record of the trial court granting summary judgment, nor is there any record of plaintiff making timely [294 Or.App. 547] objections to the alleged rulings. The Court of Appeals therefore rejected both assignments of error without reaching the merits.

         Affirmed.

         [294 Or.App. 548] AOYAGI, J.

         Plaintiff appeals a judgment dismissing her negligence claims against defendant with prejudice. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         The relevant facts are procedural and undisputed- at least within the confines of the record, as we will explain. This personal injury action, in which plaintiff alleged various negligence claims against defendant, was set for trial on January 10, 2017, at 9:00 a.m. That morning, the parties met in chambers with the trial judge. At 11:39 a.m., they went on the record for five minutes. On the record, the court stated that they had discussed the matter in chambers "at some length," that plaintiff did not appear to have any viable theory for trial, that it was going to impose a $500 discovery sanction against defendant related to depositions, and that it was preemptively denying any request by defendant for prevailing party costs. Plaintiff's counsel floated one additional theory of liability-so that later he would not "feel like [he] didn't say it"-which the trial court said was "not going to change the decision of the Court on that matter." In response to a question from defendant's counsel, the court then confirmed that plaintiff's claims would be dismissed in a final judgment. The hearing ended.

         On February 7, plaintiff filed written objections to a proposed judgment drafted by defendant that would dismiss plaintiffs claims with prejudice. Plaintiff asserted that the trial court, acting sua sponte, had improperly granted either summary judgment or a premature directed verdict in defendant's favor on January 10 and also had imposed an inadequate discovery sanction against defendant. She requested to proceed to trial with a different judge. Defendant responded that no such thing had occurred but, rather, that the court had identified weaknesses in plaintiff's case, which led the parties to reach a settlement under which plaintiff agreed to the dismissal of her claims in exchange for a $500 sanction.

         At a hearing on plaintiff's objections to the proposed judgment, which took place on April 10, the parties reiterated their respective positions as to what had occurred in chambers on January 10. The trial court stated that it, like defendant, remembered what happened as a settlement. [294 Or.App. 549] Ultimately, the court rejected plaintiff's objections and entered a "Final General Judgment and Money Award" in defendant's favor on April 20. In the judgment, the court, "having heard argument of counsel, and based on the parties' written pretrial submissions, and based on the court file herein," ordered the matter dismissed with prejudice, without fees or costs to either party, and ordered defendant to pay $500 for failure to comply with certain discovery requirements.

         On appeal of the judgment, plaintiff raises two assignments of error. First, she asserts that the trial court "erred in granting summary judgment sua sponte." Second, she contends that the trial court abused its discretion by imposing such a small discovery sanction on defendant. As in the trial court proceedings, defendant responds that the judgment is the result of a settlement that occurred in ...


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