Wallowa County Sheriff Fred Steen and other defendants in an Enterprise couples $12.5-million lawsuit are calling for the court to dismiss all claims.
Bruce and Venese Hampton filed suit March 15 against Steen, the sheriffs office and Wallowa County. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Pendleton, alleges that Steen, sheriffs office informant Lloyd Trackwell Jr., and county commissioner Paul Castilleja interfered with the Hamptons business deals and that the couple was also defamed.
On May 29, the Hamptons amended their suit to include Trackwell as a defendant. They did not add Castilleja to the defendants list, however.
Defendants filed their formal answer to the amended complaint on July 13. The 37-page document, signed by attorney Leslie A. Edenhofer of Portland firm Hart Wagner LLP, argues that the plaintiffs federal claims are subject to dismissal because plaintiffs lack standing to bring some of the claims, the claims are barred for failing to comply with the statute of limitations and plaintiffs fail to allege facts sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief.
As regards plaintiffs standing and some of the claims, defendants argue that plaintiffs have alleged injuries on behalf of individuals not parties to the lawsuit, including a title company, an individual and a husband and wife. Plaintiffs fail to allege facts indicating a right to bring claims on behalf of these third parties, the document states.
Where the issue of timeliness in filing a complaint is concerned, defendants July 13 answer notes that Oregon applies a two-year statute of limitations for personal-injury torts arising out of any act or omission of a public body or an officer, agent or employee of the public body,... and a one-year statute of limitations for defamation claims. A later paragraph notes that plaintiffs allege numerous wrongful acts committed by Trackwell before March 15, 2010 that caused plaintiffs harm and argues that all of these alleged acts are now too old to form the basis of valid claims. Further, the Hamptons didnt contend that they were delayed in discovering the alleged harms, the defense points out.
Much of defendants answer deals with claims alleging the plaintiffs had been deprived under Title 42 Section 1983 of U.S. Code, a section pertaining to civil rights. In order for the plaintiffs to prevail in these claims against a municipality, however, they must show that the deprivation was caused by an official policy, custom or usage of the municipality, the defense document states, citing case law.
The lengthy document includes various other key points in arguing for claims dismissal. Among them:
Sheriff Steen is entitled to absolute immunity, regardless of whether the court determines the Hamptons have stated sufficient allegations to state a claim for relief.
Section 1983 violations alleged against Trackwell should be dismissed because the Amended Complaint fails to allege sufficient facts to support the conclusion that Trackwell was acting under color of state law.
Contrary to plaintiffs assertions, Trackwell is not an agent of the Wallowa County defendants... Plaintiffs have alleged no facts suggesting that Trackwell was subject to the Wallowa County defendants control or that he was acting on their behalf.
Handling defense duties with Edenhofer is Steve Kraemer, another Hart Wagner attorney. Representing the Hamptons are Portland attorneys Kevin Sali and David Angeli.