M.K.F. v. Miramontes

Decision Date20 September 2012
Docket NumberCA A138024,SC S058847).,(CC 0510408
Citation287 P.3d 1045,352 Or. 401
PartiesM.K.F., Respondent on Review, v. Hector S. MIRAMONTES, Petitioner on Review.
CourtOregon Supreme Court

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

On review from the Court of Appeals.*

Andy Simrin, Andy Simrin PC, Portland, argued the cause and filed the briefs for petitioner on review.

Lorena M. Reynolds, The Reynolds Law Firm PC, Corvallis, argued the cause and filed the brief for respondent on review.

Cody Hoesly, Larkins Vacura LLP, Portland, filed a brief for amicus curiae Oregon Trial Lawyers Association.

Judy C. Lucas, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Salem, filed a brief for amicus curiae State of Oregon. With her on the brief were John R. Kroger, Attorney General, and Anna M. Joyce, Solicitor General.

WALTERS, J.

In this case, we decide that, in an action under ORS 30.866 in which a plaintiff seeks both a stalking protective order and a judgment for compensatory money damages, the parties are entitled to a jury trial on the claim for money damages.

Plaintiff 1 filed a petition under ORS 30.866,2 alleging that defendant had engaged in knowing and repeated unwanted sexual contact with her in the two years preceding the filing of the petition and that that contact had caused plaintiff reasonable apprehension regarding her safety. Plaintiff claimed that she was entitled to three forms of relief: a stalking protective order enjoining defendant from engaging in certain conduct; an award of compensatory damages for lost sick and annual leave, lost wages, and counseling expenses; and an award of reasonable attorney fees. Defendant asserted that he was entitled to a jury trial on plaintiff's claim for compensatory money damages. The trial court disagreed and conducted the trial on all three claims without a jury. The court found in favor of plaintiff, issued a stalking protective order, entered a general judgment for compensatory damages in the amount of $42,347.78, and entered a supplemental judgment for reasonable attorney fees.

Defendant appealed, raising three assignments of error, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The court discussed only defendant's first assignment of error—that the trial court had erred when it conducted the trial on plaintiff's claim for compensatory damages without a jury. M.K.F. v. Miramontes, 236 Or.App. 381, 383, 236 P.3d 782 (2010).3 The court held that defendant had neither a statutory nor a constitutional right to a jury trial. The court reasoned that the text of ORS 30.866 contains “no reference that conveys any kind of indication that the legislature intended to confer a right to a jury trial.” Id. at 385, 236 P.3d 782. In the absence of such a clear legislative intent, the court considered whether the Oregon Constitution confers that right. The court stated that the relevant constitutional provisions applied only to ‘those classes of cases in which the right [to a jury trial] was customary at the time the [Oregon] [C]onstitution was adopted or in cases of like nature.’ Id. at 386, 236 P.3d 782 (quoting McDowell Welding & Pipefitting v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 345 Or. 272, 279, 193 P.3d 9 (2008)) (alterations in original). The court concluded that this case does not fall within those classes of cases; a civil action for stalking did not exist when the Oregon Constitution was adopted, and it is “not merely an assault or battery claim by another name.” Id. at 389, 236 P.3d 782.

We allowed defendant's petition for review, and we, too, discuss only the first issue that he raises—whether he had a right to a jury trial on plaintiff's claim for compensatory money damages.4 For the reasons that follow, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals on that issue and the judgment of the circuit court on plaintiff's claim for compensatory damages and remand this case to the circuit court for further proceedings.

Defendant rests his argument that he had a right to jury trial on plaintiff's claim for compensatory damages on Article I, section 17, and Article VII (Amended), section 3, of the Oregon Constitution. However, our decisional paradigm requires us first to consider whether the stalking statute itself guarantees defendant a jury trial on that claim. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Tualatin Tire & Auto, 322 Or. 406, 414, 908 P.2d 300 (1995), modified on recons.,325 Or. 46, 932 P.2d 1141 (1997) (requiring resolution of statutory issue before constitutional issue in deciding existence of right to jury trial). We therefore turn to that question.

ORS 30.866, Oregon's civil stalking statute, provides, in part:

(1) A person may bring a civil action in a circuit court for a court's stalking protective order or for damages, or both, against a person if:

(a) The person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly engages in repeated and unwanted contact with the other person or a member of that person's immediate family or household thereby alarming or coercing the other person;

(b) It is objectively reasonable for a person in the victim's situation to have been alarmed or coerced by the contact; and

(c) The repeated and unwanted contact causes the victim reasonable apprehension regarding the personal safety of the victim or a member of the victim's immediate family or household.

(2) At the time the petition is filed, the court, upon a finding of probable cause based on the allegations in the petition, shall enter a temporary court's stalking protective order that may include, but is not limited to, all contact listed in ORS 163.730. * * *

(3)(a) At the hearing, whether or not the respondent appears, the court may continue the hearing for up to 30 days or may proceed to enter a court's stalking protective order and take other action as provided in ORS 163.738.

“ * * * * *

(4) The plaintiff may recover:

(a) Both special and general damages, including damages for emotional distress;

(b) Punitive damages; and

(c) Reasonable attorney fees and costs.

“ * * * * *

(8) The remedy provided by this section is in addition to any other remedy, civil or criminal, provided by law for the conduct giving rise to the claim.

(9) No filing fee, service fee or hearing fee shall be charged for a proceeding under this section if a court's stalking order is the only relief sought.

“ * * * * *.”

Nothing in the wording of that statute expressly grants a right to a jury trial. Nor are we aware of any statutory context suggesting that the legislature intended to grant a right to jury trial to parties to a stalking damages claim.

In Goodyear, this court held that an express grant of a right to trial by jury is not necessary, as long as a legislative intent to provide one is clear. 322 Or. at 415, 908 P.2d 300. The Oregon Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA), appearing as an amicus curiae in this proceeding, proffers legislative history that it contends provides that clear demonstration of legislative intent. OTLA argues that the legislative history shows that the legislature intended stalking damages claims to be treated the same as other civil damages claims, which, in turn, suggests that the legislature intended stalking damages claims to be tried to a jury. OTLA points to the fact that the bill that ultimately became ORS 30.866 originally exempted all petitioners from filing fee requirements. Senate Bill (SB) 833 (1993). One legislator complained that petitioners seeking only civil damages for stalking should not be relieved of the usual expenses in pursuing a civil damages action. Tape Recording, Senate Committee on Judiciary, SB 833, May 4, 1993, Tape 140, Side A (statement of Senator Bob Shoemaker); Tape Recording, Senate Committee on Judiciary, SB 833, May 5, 1993, Tape 143, Side A (statement of Senator Bob Shoemaker). Thereafter, the bill was amended, and, as enacted, ORS 30.866(9) provides that [n]o filing fee, service fee or hearing fee shall be charged for a proceeding under this section if a court's stalking order is the only relief sought.” As a consequence of that amendment, parties pursuing claims for money damages in a stalking case were not relieved of the obligation to pay the statutory fees. According to OTLA, because stalking damages claims are treated like ordinary civil damages claims when it comes to statutory fees, and ordinary civil damages claims are tried to juries, it is reasonable to infer that the legislature intended for stalking damages claims also to be tried to juries.

That chain of inferences does not lead us to the conclusion that OTLA wishes us to draw. Although the legislature may have contemplated that, like most civil damage claims, a stalking damages claim would be tried to a jury, the legislature did not express that intent. The legislature plainly did decide that a party seeking only a stalking protective order would not have to pay filing fees, while a party seeking additional relief, such as money damages, would. However, the most that we can draw from the legislative history is that it, like the statute, is silent as to whether the legislature intended to confer a right to jury trial in a stalking damages claim. We therefore turn to whether the Oregon Constitution requires a jury trial of plaintiff's claim for compensatory damages.

Article I, section 17, provides that, [i]n all civil cases the right of Trial by Jury shall remain inviolate.” Article VII (Amended), section 3, provides, in part, that, [i]n actions at law, where the value in controversy shall exceed $750, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved.” Defendant argues that plaintiff filed a civil case that included a legal claim in which the value in controversy exceeded $750. Therefore, defendant asserts, he is entitled to a jury trial on that legal claim.

Plaintiff counters with two related but alternative arguments, both of which are based on this court's pronouncement in State v. 1920 Studebaker Touring Car et al., 120 Or. 254, 263, 251 P. 701 (1927), that the right to a jury trial in a civil case...

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