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Gist v. Zoan Management, Inc.

Supreme Court of Oregon

October 25, 2018

Jeff GIST, individually and on behalf of all similarly situated, Petitioner on Review,
ZOAN MANAGEMENT, INC.; Senvoy, LLC; and Driver Resources, LLC, a domestic limited liability company, Respondents on Review.

          Argued and submitted May 10, 2018.

          On review of an order of the Court of Appeals. (CC 131115916) (CA A159509) [*]

          Lisa T. Hunt, Law Office of Lisa T. Hunt, LLC, Eugene, argued the cause and fled the briefs for the petitioner on review.

          Charles J. Paternoster, Parson Farnell & Grein, LLP, Portland, argued the cause and fled the brief for the respondents on review.

          Before Walters, Chief Justice, and Balmer, Kistler, Nakamoto, Flynn, and Duncan, Justices, and Landau, Senior Justice pro tempore. [**]

         [363 Or. 730 (2018)] Case Summary: In a civil action, defendants successfully petitioned for an order compelling arbitration. In response, plaintiff dismissed the action with prejudice and appealed the general judgment of dismissal. The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal, holding that under Steenson v. Robinson, 236 Or. 414, 385 P.2d 738 (1963), a plaintiff could not appeal from a voluntary dismissal. Held: (1) Steenson did not bar plaintiff's appeal; and (2) the Oregon Uniform Arbitration Act did not bar plaintiff's appeal.

         [363 Or. 731 (2018)] BALMER, J.

         This case requires us to determine whether the Court of Appeals correctly dismissed plaintiff's appeal of a judgment dismissing his complaint with prejudice on the grounds that the appeal was barred by this court's decision in Steenson v. Robinson, 236 Or. 414, 385 P.2d 738 (1963). That decision set out the common-law rule that a party may not appeal from a voluntarily-requested judgment. For reasons we explain below, we conclude that the judgment was appealable and remand the case to the Court of Appeals. We are not asked to-and we do not-express any view on the merits of plaintiff's appeal or on the reviewability of the issues raised by plaintiff in his appeal.

         Plaintiff worked as a driver for defendant Driver Resources, LLC. The other two defendants are related companies. In November 2013, plaintiff filed a class-action complaint against defendants, on behalf of himself and other similarly situated drivers. At issue was defendants' compliance with Oregon's wage and hour laws, as set out in ORS chapters 652 and 653. In January 2014, defendants filed a petition to compel arbitration, on the basis of an agreement that plaintiff had signed with one defendant. Plaintiff responded to the petition by arguing that the agreement was unconscionable, and therefore that arbitration should not be compelled. The trial court granted defendants' petition, requiring plaintiff to proceed to arbitration.

         Plaintiff made several attempts to obtain appellate review of the trial court's order compelling arbitration. First, plaintiff filed an interlocutory appeal, arguing that the order compelling arbitration was appealable under ORS 19.205(2), which allows interlocutory appeals of court orders affecting substantial rights. The Court of Appeals dismissed that appeal on the grounds that the order compelling arbitration was not appealable. Second, in December 2014, plaintiff asked the trial court to amend its order compelling arbitration to state that the order presented "a controlling question of law as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion" for the purposes of ORS 19.225, a statute that gives the Court of Appeals discretion to hear interlocutory appeals in cases involving class actions in which [363 Or. 732 (2018)] the trial court makes such a finding. The trial court denied that motion. Finally, in March 2015, plaintiff moved to dismiss all of his claims with prejudice. Plaintiff explained to the court that the order compelling arbitration effectively precluded any recovery by plaintiff, because plaintiff was unemployed and could not afford to pay the arbitrators, and that the purpose of the dismissal was to allow plaintiff to appeal the judgment and obtain review of the order compelling arbitration. Plaintiff's counsel stated, "If we do not convince the Court of Appeals or if we get AWOP'd and nobody wants to hear it or write an opinion on it, then the case is over, my client loses, it's done." The trial court, without expressing a view on plaintiffs factual contentions, granted the motion to dismiss and entered a general judgment of dismissal with prejudice, one that made clear that the dismissal was at plaintiffs request.

         Plaintiff filed an appeal from that judgment in the Court of Appeals. Defendants moved to dismiss the appeal on two grounds. First, defendants argued that this court's decision in Steenson prevented appeal of a voluntary dismissal. Second, defendants argued that plaintiff's attempt to appeal an order granting a motion to compel arbitration is barred by ORS 36.730, which governs certain appeals in cases involving arbitration. They contended that that statute creates an exception to ORS 19.205(1), which generally permits appeal of a general judgment.

         The Appellate Commissioner rejected defendants' second argument, determining that ORS 19.205(1), in combination with ORS 19.245, provided a statutory basis allowing plaintiff to appeal the general judgment of dismissal.[1]However, the Appellate Commissioner held that Steenson prevented plaintiff from taking an appeal and entered an order dismissing the appeal on that ground. Plaintiff petitioned for reconsideration of the Appellate Commissioner's decision by the Court of Appeals. That petition was denied. Plaintiff then filed a petition for review of the dismissal of the appeal in this court, which we allowed.

         [363 Or. 733 (2018)] ORS 19.205(1) provides that "[u]nless otherwise provided by law, a limited judgment, general judgment or supplemental judgment, as those terms are denned by ORS 18.005, may be appealed as provided in this chapter." In this case, plaintiff attempts to appeal a general judgment. ORS 19.245(1) provides that, subject to exceptions that do not apply here, "any party to a judgment may appeal from the judgment." Those statutes authorize plaintiff to appeal the general judgment of dismissal entered here, unless some other rule of law prevents the appeal.

         As they did before the Court of Appeals, defendants argue that two separate legal rules bar plaintiff's appeal in this case. First, defendants argue that this court's decision in Steenson prevents plaintiff from appealing. Steenson announced a common law rule "that a party may not appeal from a judgment which he voluntarily requested." 236 Or at 416-17. Second, defendants argue that a provision of the Oregon Uniform Arbitration Act, ORS 36.730, bars plaintiff's appeal. That statute permits interlocutory appeals of orders "denying a petition to compel arbitration," ORS 36.730(1)(a), or "granting a petition to stay arbitration," ORS 36.730(1)(b), but contains no analogous provision permitting an interlocutory appeal of an order granting a petition to compel arbitration. Defendants draw from that omission the inference that an ...

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