Civil litigation defense attorney for Oregon churches and religious schools - Kaempf Law Firm

John Kaempf is a civil litigation defense attorney for Oregon churches and religious schools, and he defends child abuse claims in Oregon against corporations and individuals

Kaempf Law Firm PC: Oregon civil defense trial counsel.

Kaempf Law Firm's offices are location in Portland, Oregon

Kaempf Law Firm PC is based in Portland, Oregon and defends civil litigation in Oregon's state and federal courts.

John Kaempf is a trial lawyer based in Portland, Oregon who specializes in defending lawsuits against churches and religious schools, child abuse claims against corporations (both religious and secular), employment litigation, and high exposure personal injury and wrongful death cases. He has tried over 20 cases to Oregon juries and has won many other cases through pretrial motions. His practice encompasses both trial and appellate work.​

John has more than 20 years’ experience defending civil litigation in Oregon’s state and federal courts. He has been selected as an Oregon “Super Lawyer,” an award given to the top 5% of Oregon attorneys, every year the award has been given. He is also recognized by Best Lawyers in America, and his law firm is one of America’s “Best Law Firms” according to U.S. News & World Report. He has an AV peer review rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the highest rating given. He graduated cum laude from Lewis & Clark Law School in 1992.

John is the author and publisher of Oregon Religious Law Update, a newsletter that addresses developments in Oregon and national law that affect churches, religious schools, and other religious organizations in Oregon. A link to the Oregon Religious Law Update Blog is above.

Before opening his own firm, John worked for more than 15 years at one of Oregon's largest civil defense law firms. Thus, at his own civil defense litigation firm, John combines big firm experience with the highly responsive approach of a boutique firm.

Representative Cases

Defending Child Abuse Claims Against Corporations

The Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the summary judgment for John's clients in J.S. v. Franciscan Friars of Oregon, 215 Or. App. 500, 170 P.3d 8 (2007), a case involving alleged child abuse by a Catholic priest. The court upheld the trial court's rulings that the defendants were not vicariously liable for the priest's alleged sexual abuse of the plaintiff, and that plaintiff's claims were barred by the statute of limitations because the alleged abuse occurred decades earlier.

Obtained the pretrial dismissal of a multi-million dollar child abuse action filed against The International Church of The Foursquare Gospel and one of its former pastors. The trial court ruled that, even assuming the alleged sexual abuse occurred, the case was barred by the statute of limitations. The case is JMS, et al. v. Roberts, et al., Multnomah County Circuit Court case number 0705-05015.

Churches and Religious Schools

Defended a Catholic high school in an Oregon state court action where the plaintiffs, a former student and his parents, sued for readmission to the school and sought money damages after the school decided not to reenroll the student for his sophomore year. In February 2013, the trial court granted John’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case, holding that the school’s student handbook granted it the sole discretion to decide these matters and that plaintiffs’ claimed damages were speculative.

Commercial and Employment Litigation

Represented Grant Thornton LLP, one of the country's largest accounting firms, in a month-long bench trial in Oregon state court where the plaintiffs sought over $7,000,000 in damages for alleged negligence. The court ruled that Grant Thornton was not liable.

Personal Injury

Represented Burger King Corporation in a premises liability action where the plaintiff was severely injured at a Burger King restaurant. After a weeklong trial in Oregon state court, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Burger King, finding that it was not negligent.

Represented the defendant in a weeklong jury trial in the District of Oregon federal court where the plaintiff was severely injured in a commercial vehicle accident. The jury reached a verdict for defendant, finding that he was not negligent.

Obtained a summary judgment for defendant Philip Morris in federal court in a product liability action. The District of Oregon dismissed the case based on the statute of limitations, and the dismissal was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The case is reported as Cook v. Sibjet, 2000 WL 33946062 (D. Or. 2000), affirmed, 44 Fed. Appx. 762 (9th Cir. 2002).


In 2011, the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the jury’s decision to not award any noneconomic damages to the plaintiffs in a personal injury action where the plaintiffs suffered significant injuries in an accident with the defendant, John’s client. The court reversed the trial court’s decision to grant plaintiffs a new trial on the basis that an award of noneconomic damages was required. The court agreed with John that plaintiffs waived this argument because they did not request that the jury be instructed that they must award noneconomic damages. The case is reported as Estate of Ibarra v. Lilly, 245 Or. App. 294, 263 P.3d 1053 (2011).

In 2011, the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the summary judgment John obtained for his client, the Oregon State Snowmobile Association, in a $15,000,000 wrongful death case where the plaintiff died as a result of a snowmobiling accident. The court ruled that the lawsuit is barred by Oregon’s "recreational purposes" immunity statute, which prohibits liability where a plaintiff is injured while recreating for free on land open to the general public for recreation. The case is reported as Stewart v. Kralman, 240 Or. App. 510, 248 P.3d 6 (2011).

In 2007, John represented the Multnomah Athletic Club (MAC) in its successful defense of a lawsuit brought by a club member expelled by the MAC who sought readmission to the club. In July 2007, The Oregon Channel televised John's oral argument of the appeal of this case. The Oregon Court of Appeals' decision in the MAC's favor, which affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the lawsuit against the MAC based on the statute of limitations, is published as Wiederhorn v. Multnomah Athletic Club, 215 Or. App. 392, 170 P.3d 1 (2007).

In 2000, John represented a convenience store in its successful defense of a lawsuit involving serious personal injuries that occurred when the plaintiff fell on the premises. The Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's granting of summary judgment for the defendant, ruling that it was not negligent as a matter of law based on the undisputed facts. The case is reported as Andrews v. R.W. Hays Co., 166 Or. App. 494, 998 P.2d 774 (2000).



Bar Admissions

  • Oregon State Bar (admitted 1992)
  • Supreme Court of the United States
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • United States District Court, District of Oregon

Professional Activities and Memberships

  • Catholic Charities, Board Member (2007-2009)
  • Catholic Youth Organization - Camp Howard, Board Member (2006-2009)
  • Legal Extern, Honorable Otto R. Skopil, Jr., U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, fall 1991
  • Oregon Association of Defense Counsel Magazine (Practice Tips Editor, 2002-2008)
  • Oregon State Bar Association, Litigation Section
  • Oregon State Bar Board of Governors, Uniform Civil Jury Instructions Committee (2004-2005)
  • Oregon State Board of Bar Examiners, summer 2000

Articles and Presentations

  • Speaker: Latest Developments in Oregon Civil Defense Law
  • Author: ORCP 54E Pretrial Offers to Allow Judgment - An Often Overlooked Defense Tool
  • Author: There is no Claim for Common Law Wrongful Death in Oregon
  • Speaker: Tips for New Litigators
  • Author/Editor: Practice Tips Column