Tonkon Torp's Appellate Expertise Produces Oregon Supreme Court Win
Appellate lawyer Robyn Ridler Aoyagi has delivered a remarkable victory to Tonkon Torp client Sea River Properties in a real property dispute that has been simmering for decades and actively litigated for over eight years. On August 14, 2014, the Oregon Supreme Court overturned the decisions of the Tillamook County trial court and the Oregon Court of Appeals, based on Aoyagi's arguments, vindicating Sea River and its predecessors' claims of ownership to the property.
At issue is approximately 40 acres of undeveloped oceanfront property in Nedonna Beach, Oregon. The disputed land came into being through the process of "accretion," whereby wind and wave action caused new land to form near the confluence of the Nehalem River and the Pacific Ocean after the federal government built jetties a century ago to contain the Nehalem River. At trial, the trial court concluded that Sea River's predecessors had originally held title to the property under the law of accretion, but that the defendant Loren Parks had at some point acquired title by adverse possession. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision in favor of Parks, but on different grounds, overturning the trial court's accretion ruling and holding that Parks actually owned the property by accretion.
In its recent decision, the Oregon Supreme Court reversed the trial court's ruling on adverse possession; it reversed the Court of Appeals' ruling on accretion; and it remanded to the trial court to enter a judgment quieting title to the property with Sea River. The decision thereby resolves once and for all the legal ownership of the disputed land. In addition to providing a complete victory for Aoyagi’s client, the Supreme Court decision significantly settles Oregon law regarding accretion, as well as helping define Oregon law on adverse possession, particularly with respect to vacant land.
The Oregon Supreme Court grants review in only about 60 cases each year. In order to prevail, Aoyagi first had to convince the Supreme Court to take the case, which is no small task. Then she had to secure reversal of the trial court's decision on one issue and reversal of the Court of Appeals' decision on an entirely different issue. Her success in doing so depended on top-notch appellate advocacy and advanced appellate skills and experience, coupled with the ability to understand and communicate extremely complex factual and legal issues. The ultimate outcome provides an excellent example of the value of hiring appellate counsel when a case goes on appeal.
Aoyagi has been a partner at Tonkon Torp since 2006. She practices complex commercial litigation, with a specific focus on appellate litigation and civil motions practice.
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