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Lanoy v. Taylor

Court of Appeals of Oregon

November 14, 2019

David DE LANOY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
Katelin J. TAYLOR, Defendant-Appellant.

          Submitted November 29, 2018

          Marion County Circuit Court 16CV24141; Thomas M. Hart, Judge.

          Geordie Duckler filed the briefs for appellant.

          Paul B. Meadowbrook filed the brief for respondent.

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

         Case Summary:

         In this dispute over a dog, plaintiff fled a claim for replevin, and defendant fled a counterclaim for a declaratory judgment. Before trial, defendant challenged the procedural propriety of the replevin claim and asked the trial court to proceed only on the declaratory judgment claim. Without clearly ruling on that issue, the court proceeded to a bench trial. After trial, the court declared plaintiff to be the lawful owner of the dog, and it entered a judgment ordering defendant to return the dog to plaintiff. Defendant appeals, asserting that plaintiff's replevin claim was procedurally defective. Held: Because the trial court ruled in plaintiff's favor on defendant's declaratory judgment claim, and defendant has not assigned error to that ruling, the procedural propriety of the replevin claim does not affect the disposition of the case, even assuming that the trial court implicitly denied defendant's challenge to the replevin claim.

         Affirmed.

         [300 Or.App. 518] AOYAGI, J.

         This is a dispute about a dog, specifically a female whippet named Isis. Plaintiff adopted Isis from the Oregon Humane Society in April 2013, when she was two months old. Isis lived with plaintiff and his family in Portland until approximately summer 2014, when they moved to Florida on short notice. Plaintiff asked his longtime best friend, Rich, who lived in Portland, to keep Isis until plaintiff got settled in Florida. Rich agreed. Plaintiff and Rich understood that Rich was taking care of Isis for plaintiff, who continued to be her owner, and that plaintiff would eventually return for her. Defendant, who is Rich's ex-girlfriend, had a different understanding. In her view, Isis belonged to Rich, Rich abandoned Isis, and Isis thereby became defendant's property.

         In July 2016, plaintiff filed an action for replevin against defendant. Plaintiff asserted that he was the rightful owner of Isis and requested her immediate return. Plaintiff had difficulty locating defendant to serve the complaint but eventually, in December 2016, succeeded in serving her. In her answer to the complaint, defendant denied the allegations, raised various affirmative defenses, and pled two counterclaims. Only the first counterclaim-for a declaratory judgment-is relevant here. Defendant alleged, in support of her counterclaim, that plaintiff had gifted the dog to Rich, who abandoned the dog, at which time defendant became its lawful owner. Defendant requested a declaration that she was the "true sole owner" of the dog and that she was entitled, among other things, to physical possession of the dog.

         The court held a bench trial in May. At the start of the trial, defendant challenged the procedural propriety of plaintiffs replevin claim and argued that her own declaratory-judgment counterclaim was the only claim properly before the court. Plaintiff disagreed with defendant's procedural argument but also questioned whether it mattered given that the court would have to decide the counterclaim in any event: "[A]t the end of the day, does it really matter, because if you decide ownership of the dog under the dec[laratory] action, and if you decide that she doesn't own [300 Or.App. 519] the dog and he does, then the process would be to get the dog back." The court did not directly address the procedural issue regarding the replevin claim, stating only, "Why don't we just do the facts. And I'll figure out who is going to get the dog."

         The sole subject of the trial was who lawfully owned the dog. Plaintiff argued and put on evidence that he was the lawful owner, which included both plaintiff and Rich testifying that the dog had always belonged to plaintiff and that Rich was only watching the dog for plaintiff until he got settled in Florida. Conversely, defendant argued and put on evidence that she was the lawful owner, based on her theory that the dog belonged to Rich and that Rich had abandoned the dog to her care while she and Rich were dating.

         The trial court found in plaintiffs favor. It explained that the evidence was insufficient to establish that plaintiff had gifted the dog to Rich or had abandoned the dog in the legal sense. As such, the court ruled, the dog remained the legal property of plaintiff. The court concluded, "The declaration is that [plaintiff] has a higher legal right[.] * * * And so I'm declaring that the owner is still the owner, [plaintiff, ] even though [defendant] might think ...


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