HUFFMAN & WRIGHT LOGGING CO. V. WADE, Supreme Ct. of OR, 1993, 857 P.2d 101 by JohnMValentine


HUFFMAN & WRIGHT LOGGING CO. V. WADE, Supreme Ct. of OR, 1993, 857 P.2d 101. History: In action for trespass to chattels, jury awarded $5717.34 compensatory for loss of profits for that day and $25000.00 punitive damages to Plaintiff; Defendants concede their liability for trespass and compensatory damages, but argue OR Constitution and 4th and 14th US Constitution Amendments prohibit an award of punitive damages b/c their trespassory connect was “expressive” political speech designed to change gov’t policies; Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment for punitive damages Defendants convicted in criminal court also Facts: Plaintiff is a private corporation that operates a logging business and Defendants are members of “Earth First!”; July 1987, Defendants participated in a demonstration, during which 5 of the 6 defendants climbed on and chained themselves to Plaintiff’s equipment; the 6th Defendant climbed to the top of a yarder belonging to a Plaintiff and hung a banner “FROM HERITAGE TO SAWDUST—EARTH FIRST” and it also showed two tress being turned into sawdust; Defendants also made statements, sang songs, and chanted slogans while chained to Plaintiff’s equipment; Defendants concede liability, but they argue they cannot be charged w/punitive damages Issue(s): Do the 1st and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution prohibit the imposition of punitive damages for political statements? Holding: Punitive damages awarded and affirmed Analysis: Conflict is over possessory rights and constitutional rights; The acts were conduct and not speech; trespass of chattels focuses on the effect—the disturbance of the owner’s possession and speech has no holding on this tort; if a trot permits liability for the content of speech, punitive damages are not recoverable; if a tort permits liability for speech-caused harm, then Defendant who requests it is entitled to instructions limiting the tortuous predicate for punitive damage; if a tort permits liability for harm not caused by speech, but Defendant contends Article I, Section 8 prohibits punitive damages, then Defendant who requests it may be entitled to a limited instruction Trespassory acts were “non-expressive conduct” 1st Amendment does not apply to private property not devoted for public use Tort of trespass to chattels is aimed at conduct not protected by the free expression provision of the OR Constitution or the 1st Amendment

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