News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Court Roundup: Hearing reset to November to weigh PacifiCorp verdict

A Dec. 1 hearing to potentially set aside a $90 million verdict against PacifiCorp for the 2020 wildfires has been rescheduled to Nov. 9 as parties work to resolve multiple pending motions.

The company is challenging a June 12 verdict in James et al vs. PacifiCorp that found it negligently responsible for the Santiam, Echo Mountain, 242 and South Obenchain fires in 2020.

PacifiCorp filed a motion Aug. 11 in Multnomah County Circuit Court claiming the jury’s decision was not supported by the evidence or state laws regulating awards in wildfire suits. Plaintiffs have until Oct. 11 to file their opposition to the motion.

The $90 million was awarded to 17 named plaintiffs representing a class of roughly 5,000 fire survivors. A series of three follow-up trials will begin in January to help determine individual damages for remaining plaintiffs.

Two of the upcoming trials on Jan. 8 and Feb. 26, 2024, will each feature 15 class members chosen by plaintiff attorneys, and the outcomes will set the pace for future trials or settlements. Judge Steffan Alexander has said at least one class member in each trial must have been a renter who suffered losses from the fires.

A third trial April 22, 2024, will hear claims by Freres Timber Inc. and C.W. Specialty Lumber Inc, whose claims will be representative of the businesses among class members.

Dietrich keeps vet practice after plea

A Scio veterinarian will be allowed to continue his practice while on probation after accepting a plea deal in an animal neglect case.

Brian James Dietrich, 43, owner of Scio Animal Clinic, was sentenced to five years of probation Sept. 20 in Linn County Circuit Court after pleading no contest to second-degree animal neglect.

He had been arrested in July for keeping a herd of 27 sheep in unsanitary and cramped conditions, resulting in the deaths of two of the animals and injuries to multiple others.

As a condition of probation, Dietrich was ordered to serve two days in the Linn County Jail with credit for time served and 10 days on a county work crew.

While on probation he may continue working as a veterinarian but otherwise may not have pets or livestock in his care except for a dog, two cats, one horse and two mules already in his possession. He must also surrender 25 sheep seized by Linn County and reimburse the county $3,134 for the animals’ care.

Ansted unfit in theft case

A Lyons man accused of stealing thousands of dollars from an elderly victim has been deemed unfit to stand trial and was ordered to receive psychiatric treatment.

David Lee Ansted, 65, was arrested June 29 for allegedly stealing more than $13,000 from the victim between 2019 and 2020. 

On Aug. 2, Linn County Circuit Court Judge Michael Wynhausen found Ansted was not mentally competent. He ordered Ansted into the care of the Oregon State Hospital and suspended criminal proceedings.

If Ansted’s competency is restored, the case will resume. If after six months competency is not restored, the court may consider dismissing the case while taking into account the defendant’s needs and the interests of justice.

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