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Oregon Prisoner’s Conversion Claim Against Guard Reinstated

The Oregon Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s dismissal of a prisoner’s handwritten, pro se filing for failure to state a claim.

Oregon prisoner Michael Spillino filed a handwritten petition in circuit court, claiming that Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) lieutenant Hogeland wrongfully took his personal property, valued at $600. He sought the return of his property or $600 in damages.

The circuit court initially waived Spillino’s filing fee pursuant to ORS 30.643. However, it then sua sponte dismissed the action for failure to state a claim under ORS 30.647(2)(b). The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that “the contents of plaintiff’s filing were sufficient to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.”

The appellate court noted that Spillino “filed a document entitled ‘Standard Tort Claim Form,’ a preprinted form apparently supplied by the Department of Corrections, with sections for ‘Facts’ and ‘Details of Damages.’” Spillino had “completed the form by hand.”

The Court of Appeals held that Spillino’s claim that Hogeland wrongly took and refused to return his personal property “was sufficient to state a claim for conversion.” That is, he alleged sufficient facts to support a claim of “an intentional exercise of dominion or control over a chattel which so seriously interferes with the right of another to control it that the actor may justly be required to pay the other the full value of the chattel.”

Accordingly, the circuit court’s order of dismissal was reversed and the case remanded. See: Spillino v. Taylor, 280 Or. App. 700, 384 P.3d 169 (Or. Ct. App. 2016). 

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Related legal case

Spillino v. Taylor