Oregon Court of Appeals

The Oregon Court of Appeals recently issued a decision confirming the pre-lien notice requirements necessary to perfect a lien in Oregon. The case, known as Multi/Tech Engineering Services, Inc. v. Innovative Design & Construction, LLC, 274 Or App 389 (2015), discussed whether a lien recorded by Multi/Tech for engineering services could be foreclosed where Multi/Tech may have failed to provide the project owner a notice of right to lien.

The case involved the development and construction of a commercial project in Salem owned by Adler Commercial Properties (ACP). The project owner retained the services of Innovative and Gene Pfeifer to assist in the development of the project, who in turn hired Multi/Tech to provide various engineering services. Following Innovative’s and Pfeifer’s failure to pay Multi/Tech’s final invoice, Multi/Tech recorded a lien identifying ACP (and other related entities) as the project owners and Innovative and Pfeifer as the lien debtors. Thereafter, the trial court granted a judgment of lien foreclosure to Multi/Tech. ACP, among others, appealed asserting that Multi/Tech failed to properly perfect its lien.

The Court of Appeals confirmed that under ORS 87.010(5) professionals providing engineering services, such as Multi/Tech, were generally authorized to lien the project for which such services were supplied. The Court went on further, however, to emphasize that “[i]n order to perfect one of the construction liens authorized by ORS 87.010, including a lien under ORS 87.010(5), a person who is entitled to a lien ordinarily must provide the owner of the property subject to the lien with notice of the person’s right to a lien.” Citing ORS 87.021(3)(a), the Court cautioned that “[f]ailure to provide the notice – when notice is required – means that the lien is not perfected and is not valid.” Continue Reading Oregon Court of Appeals Reaffirms that Engineer Lien Claimant Must Provide Notice of Right to Lien to Perfect and Foreclose Lien

Recently, the Oregon Court of Appeals issued a decision that may have far reaching impacts for communities looking at whether a particular project constitutes a “capital improvement” under their Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (more commonly known as CC&Rs). The case, known as Eagle-Air Estates Homeowners Ass’n, Inc. v. Haphey, 272 Or App 651 (2015), involved whether an assessment levied by a homeowners association to pay for certain attorney fees incurred in a prior litigation constitutes a “capital improvement,” and therefore a “special assessment” under the HOA’s CC&Rs.

Relying on Black’s Law Dictionary, the Court of Appeals found that the term capital improvement “is commonly understood to mean a permanent structural improvement to property.” (Emphasis added). The Court also cited to Webster’s Dictionary’s definition of “capital expenditure,” as further explanation of the phrase, noting that a “capital expenditure” refers to “long-term additions or betterments properly chargeable to a capital assets account.”

After analyzing the above two definitions, along with the language in the HOA’s CC&Rs regarding other types of specific capital improvements, the Court of Appeals held that “[a]n assessment to pay for attorney fees in litigation. . . is not the type of expense that an ordinary person would regard as a ‘capital improvement’.” As a result, the assessment did not constitute a “special assessment” under the HOA’s CC&Rs and was therefore not subject to any temporal limits as to how long the assessment may be issued. Continue Reading Just What Is a Capital Improvement and Does a Judgment Against an HOA Have Preclusive Effect on the HOA’S Directors and Members?

On July 22, 2015, the Court of Appeals reaffirmed its prior decision in Alfieri v. Solomon, 263 Or App 494 (2014), petition for review granted, 356 Or 516 (2014) that confidential communications made during and/or in furtherance of a mediation proceeding are protected and shall not be admitted into evidence in any subsequent adjudicatory proceeding under ORS 36.22. Yoshida’s Inc. v. Dunn Carney Allen Higgins & Tongue LLP, 272 Or App 436 (2015). ORS 36.22 states in pertinent part: Continue Reading Protecting Against Disclosure of Prior Settlement Agreements at Trial

We spend a lot of effort on this blog talking about the time deadlines for property owners to sue contractors and design professionals for negligence.  There are two reasons for this:  first, the law on this is rapidly evolving in Oregon.  Second, it is of the utmost importance to contractors, design professionals, and property owners because there are very few absolute defenses to a claim for negligent construction besides the timing of claims.  Also, since many property owners rightfully loathe to dive into a lawsuit, they may delay filing until absolutely necessary.

The news keeps coming.  At the end of October, the Oregon Court of Appeals decided Riverview Condominium Association v. Cypress Ventures, Inc., et al., Case No A150586 (October 29, 2014).  There, the defendants developed testimony and documents evidencing that various types of water leaks had been affecting the property for several years.  The case discusses the “statute of repose” (the drop-dead deadline date for bringing any claims) as well as the “statute of limitations” (the time limit on bringing various claims). Continue Reading Oregon Court of Appeals holds cutoff time for negligent construction claims could be six years from discovery of a claim.

The Oregon Court of Appeals recently issued a surprising decision regarding the ultimate timeline to file a construction defect claim involving a “spec home.” (A “spec home” is a house which a builder or developer constructs not for a specific owner but on speculation that the home will sell to the general public upon completion.)  In Shell v The Schollander Companies, Inc. (September 24, 2014), the Court of Appeals decided that ORS 12.115, as opposed to ORS 12.135, supplies the appropriate ten-year statute of repose for an owner seeking a negligent construction claim where the owner does not have a traditional “construction contract” with the builder.  The plaintiff in Shell was the original owner of the home.  She purchased the property midway through construction from the original developer/builder using a real estate sales agreement to complete the transaction. Continue Reading And Then There Were Two: The Oregon Ct. of Appeals Finds There Are Two Possible Statutes of Repose for Negligent Construction Claims

Be sure to check out Dwain Clifford’s post on The Policyholder Report:  Oregon Court of Appeals Rejects Insurer’s Heads-I-Win, Tails-I-Win Policy Interpretation.

The Oregon Court of Appeals yesterday issued an opinion confirming that Oregon law remains faithful to the bedrock principle in coverage disputes that ambiguities in a policy must be resolved in favor of the insured.

In Patton v. Mutual of Enumclaw Ins. Co. (Oct. 8, 2014), an insured seeking coverage under his homeowner’s policy found himself between a rock and hard place, at least under the insurer’s erroneous attempt to link two unconnected policy provisions to deny coverage.  Read it here.

Today the Oregon Court of Appeals handed down a lengthy opinion upholding a money judgment awarded in favor of a judgment creditor in its garnishment action against American Family Insurance Company.  Read about it and get the decision on Ball Janik’s Policyholder Report.

Leave it to Oregon. We proudly possess some of the most confusing statutes of limitation and repose anywhere, especially as they relate to construction claims. We always have interesting questions that linger unanswered for years or even decades before finding resolution by case law or statute. Even when we get answers, those answers always seem to raise more questions. Three current questions warrant brief discussion.

1.      What is the statute of limitations for negligent injury to real property?  Continue Reading 3 Open Questions About Construction Claims and Oregon Law

Attorneys’ fees are very often the major driver of any dispute resolution. Fee shifting provisions in contracts are powerful tools to make the parties work together to resolve any dispute amicably. What happens when the fee shifting provision is ambiguous, potentially applying to all disputes or maybe only certain types of disputes? The Oregon Court of Appeals’ recent decision in Adair Homes, Inc. v. Dunn Carney Allen Higgins & Tongue, LLC presents a cautionary tale for lawyers, homeowners, and contractors alike. Continue Reading Ambiguous Fee-Shifting Provisions: A Cautionary Tale

UPDATE:

The Supreme Court issued an important decision about statutes of limitations under Oregon law on January 30, 2014.  In Rice v. Rabb, 354 Or 721 (2014) the Court held that there is a discovery rule for conversion claims under ORS 12.080(4) and reversed the Court of Appeals, which held that Rice’s conversion claim was time-barred because plaintiff sued more than six years after the tort, the taking of the Queen of the Pendleton Round-Up outfit, was committed.   (See our previous post about the Court of Appeals opinion in that case for the full round-up of the facts.)  The Supreme Court concluded that Rice’s claims “accrued” when she obtained the knowledge of the tort committed on her by Rabb.  Because Rice did not know that Rabb had taken the outfit until 2007, years after Rabb took the outfit, her claim did not accrue until then.

Construction defects and damage caused by construction defects are often not immediately perceptible to owners.  Based on the reasoning of Rice v. Rabb, claims for negligent construction under ORS 12.080(3) are likely subject to a discovery rule and claims for breach of contract under ORS 12.080(1) may also be subject to a discovery rule.  Cases currently pending before the Court of Appeals may answer those questions.