Articles Posted in Contracts

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The issue presented for the Oregon Supreme Court’s review was whether an adult foster care provider claiming unjust enrichment may recover the reasonable value of its services from a defendant who, through fraud, obtained a lower rate from the provider for the services. Plaintiff owned two adult foster homes for the elderly. Plaintiff had contracted with the Oregon Department of Human Services to provide services in a home-like setting to patients who qualified for Medicaid. For those patients, the rates charged would be those set by the department. Isabel Pritchard resided and received care in one of plaintiff’s adult foster homes until her death in November 2008. Because Prichard had been approved to receive Medicaid benefits, plaintiff charged Prichard the rate for Medicaid-qualified patients: approximately $2,000 per month, with approximately $1,200 of that being paid by the department. Plaintiff’s Medicaid rates were substantially below the rates paid by plaintiff’s “private pay” patients. Prichard’s application for Medicaid benefits, as with her other affairs, was handled by her son, Richard Gardner. Gardner had for years been transferring Prichard’s assets, mostly to himself (or using those funds for his personal benefit). Gardner’s misconduct was discovered by another of Prichard’s children: defendant Karen Nichols-Shields, who was appointed the personal representative for Prichard’s estate. In 2009, defendant contacted the police and reported her brother for theft. Ultimately, Gardner pleaded guilty to three counts of criminal mistreatment in the first degree. Gardner’s sentence included an obligation to pay a compensatory fine to Prichard’s estate, to which he complied. After defendant, in her capacity as personal representative, denied plaintiff Larisa’s Home Care, LLC’s claim against Prichard’s estate, plaintiff filed this action, essentially asserting Prichard had been qualified for Medicaid through fraud and that Prichard should have been charged as a private pay patient. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded that, generally, a defendant who obtains discounted services as a result of fraud is unjustly enriched to the extent of the reasonable value of the services. The Court therefore reversed the contrary holding by the Court of Appeals. Because the fraud here occurred in the context of a person being certified as eligible for Medicaid benefits, however, the Court remanded for the Court of Appeals to consider whether certain provisions of Medicaid law may specifically prohibit plaintiff from recovering in this action. View "Larisa's Home Care, LLC v. Nichols-Shields" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff purchased an automobile insurance policy from Progressive. The policy included UM coverage with a limit of $25,000. Plaintiff was injured in an automobile accident with an uninsured motorist. Plaintiff filed a proof of loss for UM benefits with Progressive. ORS 742.061(1) generally provides for an award of attorney fees when an insured brings an action against his or her insurer and recovers more than the amount tendered by the insurer. Subsection (3) provides a “safe harbor” for the insurer: an insured is not entitled to attorney fees if, within six months of the filing of a proof of loss, the insurer states in writing that it has accepted coverage, that it agrees to binding arbitration, and that the only remaining issues are the liability of the uninsured motorist and the “damages due the insured.” At issue in this case was what the safe-harbor statute meant when it referred to the “damages due the insured.” The insurer, Progressive Classic Insurance Company, responded to plaintiff’s claim by agreeing that the accident was covered by the policy, but challenged the nature and extent of plaintiff’s injuries, as well as the reasonableness and necessity of his medical expenses. Plaintiff argued that, by reserving the right to challenge the nature and extent of his injuries, Progressive raised issues that went beyond the “damages due the insured.” The trial court, Court of Appeals and Oregon Supreme Court all rejected plaintiff’s construction of the safe-harbor statute. View "Spearman v. Progressive Classic Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff had an Oregon auto insurance policy issued by defendant. In 2008, plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident. Among other expenses, plaintiff incurred $430.67 in transportation costs to attend medical appointments and to obtain medication. She then applied for PIP medical benefits under her insurance policy. Defendant paid for plaintiff’s medical care, but it declined to pay for her transportation expenses to obtain her medical care. Plaintiff then filed a complaint for breach of contract, both for herself and on behalf of others similarly situated. She alleged that her claim for medical expenses under ORS 742.524(1)(a) included her transportation costs. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing ORS 742.524(1)(a) did not require it to pay for transportation costs. After a hearing, the trial court granted defendant’s motion and entered a judgment in defendant’s favor. The question on review was whether the PIP medical benefit in ORS 742.524(1)(a) included the insured plaintiff’s transportation costs to receive medical care. The Supreme Court held that PIP benefits for the “expenses of medical * * * services” do not include an insured’s transportation costs for traveling to receive medical care. Therefore, the Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant. View "Dowell v. Oregon Mutual Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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In 2011, plaintiff discovered a leak under her kitchen sink, which had caused extensive damage to her home, and filed a claim with her insurer, Farmers Insurance Company of Oregon (Farmers). In early 2012, Farmers voluntarily paid plaintiff a sum that it determined constituted the actual cash value of plaintiff’s losses less a deductible, $3,300.45. At around that time, it also paid plaintiff $2,169.22 in mitigation expenses. A few weeks later, plaintiff submitted to Farmers a proof of loss that included estimates of her mitigation costs and the actual cash value of her losses that far exceeded the sum that Farmers had paid her. Because plaintiff had not yet replaced any of the damaged items, she did not, at that time, submit a proof of loss that included the replacement cost of her losses. A year later, the parties had not resolved plaintiff’s claim, and in January 2013, plaintiff initiated this action. ORS 742.061 required an insurer to pay its insured’s attorney fees if, in the insured’s action against the insurer, the insured obtains a “recovery” that exceeds the amount of any tender made by the insurer within six months from the date that the insured first filed proof of a loss. In this case, the Supreme Court found that, when an insured files an action against an insurer to recover sums owing on an insurance policy and the insurer subsequently pays the insured more than the amount of any tender made within six months from the insured’s proof of loss, the insured obtains a “recovery” that entitles the insured to an award of reasonable attorney fees. View "Long v. Farmers Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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In June 2002, defendant Ron Miller entered into an open account agreement with plaintiff Union Lumber Company for the purchase of building supply materials. In July 2010, plaintiff filed an action for breach of contract and unjust enrichment against Ron Miller and his spouse Linda Miller, seeking $17,865 as the unpaid balance on the account. The complaint alleged that defendants' son, Ean Miller, had purchased building materials from plaintiff, charging those materials to the Miller account with his father's authority. The complaint further alleged that the materials that Ean purchased were delivered to properties that defendants owned and were used to improve those properties and that, for several years, defendants had paid the charges that Ean had made on the account. The question this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether the trial court erred in denying defendants' motion under ORCP 71 B(1) to set aside a general judgment entered against them on grounds of excusable neglect and mistake. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's ruling, concluding that the judgment was entered as a result of mistakes made by plaintiff and a court-appointed arbitrator with respect to the service of case-related documents on defendants. Because the Supreme Court concluded that defendants were not entitled to relief from the judgment on the grounds asserted, it reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the trial court's order denying defendants' motion to set aside the judgment. View "Union Lumber Co. v. Miller" on Justia Law

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American Family Mutual Insurance Company (AFM) sought review of a Court of Appeals decision upholding the trial court's judgment in a garnishment proceeding requiring AFM to pay a judgment that plaintiffs FountainCourt Homeowners’ Association and FountainCourt Condominium Owners’ Association (FountainCourt) had obtained against AFM’s insured, Sideco, Inc. (Sideco). The underlying dispute centered on a housing development that was constructed between 2002 and 2004 in Beaverton. FountainCourt sued the developers and contractors seeking damages for defects in the construction of the buildings in the development. Sideco, a subcontractor, was brought in as a third-party defendant, and a jury eventually determined that Sideco’s negligence caused property damage to FountainCourt’s buildings. Based on that jury verdict, the trial court entered judgment against Sideco in the amount of $485,877.84. FountainCourt then served a writ of garnishment on AFM in the amount owed by Sideco, and, in response, AFM denied that the loss was covered by its policies. The trial court ultimately entered judgment against AFM, after deducting the amounts that had been paid by other garnishees. After review, the Supreme Court found no reversible error in the court of Appeals' judgment and affirmed the courts below. View "FountainCourt Homeowners v. FountainCourt Develop." on Justia Law

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Defendant was a general contractor that builds “spec” houses (houses built without pre-existing construction contracts in anticipation of eventual sale to the public). On May 30, 2000, defendant and plaintiff entered into a purchase and sale agreement for a house. Although most of the construction had been completed, the agreement specified that defendant would make changes to the interior of the house. Specifically, defendant agreed to upgrade some of the flooring, install an air conditioning unit, and install a gas dryer in the laundry room. After defendant made those changes and the parties conducted a walk-through inspection, the sale closed on July 12, 2000. The primary question in this construction defect case was which of two statutes of repose applied when a buyer enters into a purchase and sale agreement to buy an existing home. Although each statute provided for a 10-year period of repose, the two periods of repose ran from different dates. One runs from “the date of the act or omission complained of;” the other ran from the date that construction is “substantial[ly] complet[e].” In this case, the trial court found that plaintiff filed her action more than 10 years after “the date of the act or omission complained of” but less than 10 years after the construction was “substantial[ly] complet[e].” The trial court ruled that the first statute, ORS 12.115(1), applied and accordingly entered judgment in defendant’s favor. The Court of Appeals affirmed. After review of the parties' arguments on appeal, the Supreme Court found no reversible error in the Court of Appeals' decision and affirmed. View "Shell v. Schollander Companies, Inc." on Justia Law

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A certified question of Oregon law was certified to the Oregon Supreme Court from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The question arose out of a construction contract dispute in which a homeowner's association sued a builder in state court for construction defects. The homeowner's association and the builder settled, and the settlement included an unconditional release and covenant not to execute against the builder. When the homeowner's association attempted to garnish the builder's liability insurance policy, however, the insurer claimed that it had no liability because the settlement unconditionally released its insured from any liability. The state trial court agreed, and the builder appealed. Meanwhile, in response to the state trial court's conclusion that the settlement agreement eliminated the insurer's liability, the homeowner's association and the builder amended their settlement agreement to eliminate the unconditional release and covenant not to execute. Pursuant to the new agreement, the builder initiated this action in federal court against its insurer. In the federal court action, the insurer argued that the state court already had determined that, given the terms of the original settlement, the builder could not recover under its insurance policy and that the parties lacked authority to create any new insurance coverage obligation by amending their settlement agreement. The federal district court agreed. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit certified a question on whether the homeowner's association and the builder could amend their settlement agreement in such a way as to revive the liability of the builder's insurer. After review, the Oregon Court concluded that, although the parties possessed authority to amend the terms of their settlement agreement, they could not do so in a way that retroactively revived the liability that was eliminated in their original agreement (at least not on the basis of the legal theories that they proposed). View "A&T Siding, Inc. v. Capitol Specialty Ins. Corp." on Justia Law

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The Montara Owners Association (homeowners) sued developer and general contractor, La Noue Development, LLC for damages caused by design and construction defects in the building of the Montara townhomes. The defects included problems with the framing, siding, decking, and windows, resulting in water intrusion and water damage. La Noue, in turn, filed a third-party complaint against multiple subcontractors, including Vasily Sharabarin, dba Advanced Construction (Sharabarin), who provided siding work on four buildings. Before trial, La Noue settled with the homeowners for $5 million (eliminating the first-party litigation from the case) and also reached settlements with most of the third-party subcontractors. La Noue did not settle with Sharabarin. Because of various pretrial rulings, the only claims submitted to the jury were La Noue’s breach of contract claims against Sharabarin and two other subcontractors. Before trial, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Sharabarin on La Noue’s claim for contractual indemnity, on the ground that the indemnification provision on which La Noue had relied was void under ORS 30.140. The trial court also held that the court would decide whether La Noue could recover the attorney fees that it had incurred in defending against the homeowners’ claims as consequential damages for Sharabarin’s breach of contract and that the court would resolve that issue after trial. In its post-trial ruling on the attorney fee issue, the court ultimately held that La Noue could not recover attorney fees as consequential damages in the case, even after trial, and denied La Noue’s claim for those attorney fees. The issues this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on: the proper application of ORS 30.140; whether it was error for the trial court to give an instruction on the economic waste doctrine in the absence of any evidence on the alternative measure of damages, diminution in value; and whether a third-party plaintiff can recover attorney fees as consequential damages for a third-party defendant’s breach of contract when the attorney fees were incurred in the first-party litigation in the same action. The Supreme Court concluded that it was error to have given the economic waste instruction. The Court affirmed on the Court of Appeals' decisions as to the other issues presented, and remanded for the trial court to consider the general contractor’s substantive right to attorney fees. View "Montara Owners Assn. v. La Noue Development, LLC" on Justia Law

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Defendant general contractor Super One, Inc., and various subcontractors, including defendant subcontractor T. T. & L. Sheet Metal, Inc., contracted with VIP's Industries, Inc. and VIP's Motor Inns, Inc. (VIP's) to build a hotel. Defendants began work in 1996. In early 1997, VIP's posted a "completion notice" pursuant to ORS 87.045. On or about that same date, VIP's also obtained a certificate for temporary occupancy and began accepting paying guests. However, a Certificate of Substantial Completion was not issued by the architect or accepted by VIP's as had been contemplated by the contract between the parties. After the date on which VIP's posted the completion notice, defendants continued to perform construction work. The county issued a certificate of final occupancy later that year. In 2006, plaintiff purchased the hotel and soon thereafter allegedly discovered damage. Plaintiff filed an action against defendants for negligence, nuisance, and trespass in 2007, a date more than 10 years after the posting of the completion notice but less than 10 years after the issuance of the certificate of final occupancy. Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff's claims were barred by ORS 12.135. The issue this case presented to the Supreme Court was the meaning of the term "substantial completion" as used in ORS 12.135. The Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals, and remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "PIH Beaverton, LLC v. Super One, Inc." on Justia Law