Tulsa Industrial Authority v. City of Tulsa

This appeal was the second appeal in a dispute between Taxpayer-appellant J. Clark Bundren, M.D. and appellees City of Tulsa and Tulsa Hills, LLC. The two issues in that case were: (1) whether Taxpayer should have been allowed to intervene in a declaratory judgment proceeding to determine the legality of certain public expenditures and financing; and (2) whether the appeal was moot because the appellees, Tulsa Industrial Authority, City of Tulsa Oklahoma, and Tulsa Hills, L.L.C. (TIA, City, and TH, respectively), obtained a declaratory judgment after Taxpayer was prohibited by the trial court from intervening. The Supreme Court denied the motion to dismiss the appeal for mootness and held that Taxpayer's claim for equitable relief presented by a motion to intervene was not made moot by the judgment rendered during the appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's order that denied Taxpayer's motion to intervene as a qui tam plaintiff, but reversed the trial court's order denying a motion to intervene in which Taxpayer sought equitable relief. The case what then remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the trial court ordered Taxpayer to file his "Petition in Intervention" on or before August 16, 2012. On August 15, 2012, Taxpayer complied with the order by filing the petition. On September 14, 2012, the appellees each filed separate motions to dismiss, and asserted that the bondholders were necessary parties. Several months later, the trial court granted the motions to dismiss and allowed Taxpayer twenty days to file an amended petition. The court included the requirement that if Taxpayer filed an amended petition seeking to enjoin the City from making payments to the bondholders who purchased the bonds used to finance the underlying transaction, then the Taxpayer must provide notice of the amended petition to the bondholders and file proof of such notice with the court. Taxpayer filed an amended petition, and the appellees responded with separate motions to dismiss. The trial court again dismissed Taxpayer's petition on the basis that Taxpayer did not provide notice to bondholders as necessary parties to the lawsuit, and that Taxpayer did not state a claim on which relief could be granted. The trial court found that the bondholders were necessary parties to the action and if not joined, the present parties to the action would face a substantial risk of incurring multiple and potentially inconsistent obligations. The court again dismissed without prejudice the causes of action for declaratory and injunctive relief for failure to comply with the court's prior order and for failure to join all parties necessary "to a just adjudication of this matter." The court allowed Taxpayer twenty days to file an amended petition, and ordered that if Taxpayer did not amend the petition within that time, the action would be dismissed with prejudice to all the claims. Instead of amending the petition, Taxpayer filed an Application to Assume Original Jurisdiction and Petition for Writ of Prohibition and Mandamus to the Supreme Court. The trial court entered a final order of dismissal. The dispositive issue of this matter was whether Taxpayer had to include bondholders as necessary parties to this case. The Supreme Court concluded he did, and affirmed the trial court. View "Tulsa Industrial Authority v. City of Tulsa" on Justia Law

Boler v. Security Health Care, LLC

Cleo Boler was admitted to Grace Living Center - Norman, in January 2010 and was a resident there until January 2012. Judy Little, as Cleo Boler's attorney in fact, signed the admission documents which included a three-page Dispute Resolution Provision. The arbitration agreement provided that any claim, controversy, dispute or disagreement arising out of or in connection with the care rendered to Cleo Boler would be determined by submission to neutral, binding arbitration. It purported to bind not only Cleo Boler, but any future legal representatives, heirs, successors, etc., who might assert a claim against Grace. Cleo Boler, individually, and Judy Little and Johnnie Boler as attorneys in fact, sued Grace and others for negligence, violation of the Nursing Home Care Act and breach of contract regarding the care and treatment of Cleo Boler. Grace filed a Motion to Compel Arbitration, asserting that the contract was one involving interstate commerce and was valid and enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), which preempted contrary state law. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether the trial court erred in denying the nursing home's motion to compel arbitration. The trial judge held that the wrongful death claim belonging to Cleo Boler's statutory claim was not subject to an agreement to arbitrate contained in her nursing home's admission contract. The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court and held that the personal representative and the next of kin were not bound by the arbitration agreement in the contract signed on Cleo Boler's behalf. They did not sign the nursing home contract in their personal capacities and their claim was not wholly derivative of Cleo Boler's claim. View "Boler v. Security Health Care, LLC" on Justia Law

Wood v. Mercedes-Benz of Oklahoma City

Plaintiff-appellant Erica Wood sued Mercedes-Benz of Oklahoma City for injuries she suffered after she slipped and fell on ice that had accumulated on sidewalks, pavement, and grass surrounding the Defendant's automobile dealership. The icy conditions were caused by Defendant's sprinkler system which activated during freezing temperatures. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendant. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, finding that Mercedes-Benz had a duty to take precautionary measures with regard to the sprinkler system particularly in light of cold temperatures and pooling water caused by the system. Furthermore, there was a question of fact regarding whether Mercedes-Benz breached its duty toward Wood, making summary judgment inappropriate, and requiring the matter be submitted to a jury. View "Wood v. Mercedes-Benz of Oklahoma City" on Justia Law

Carbajal v. Precision Builders, Inc.

Claimant Andres Carbajal alleged he was injured when scaffolding he was on was blown over and he fell while working on a construction project in Okmulgee. He filed a claim in the Workers' Compensation Court and alleged that he was an employee of Precision Builders, Inc., and/or Mark Dickerson (Precision) when he fell. The tribunal denied the claim upon determining that claimant was an independent contractor and not an employee. The three-judge panel affirmed the trial tribunal and the panel's order was affirmed by the Court of Civil Appeals. The issue this case presented to the Oklahoma Supreme Court on certiorari was whether petitioner was an employee or independent contractor. "Considering each of the factors on which the evidence was presented leads us to the conclusion that claimant met his burden to show that he was an employee of Precision." The Court of Appeals' decision was vacated and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Carbajal v. Precision Builders, Inc." on Justia Law

In the Matter of the Guardianship of Berry

A daughter was appointed special guardian for her parents. Two lawyers entered an appearance on behalf of the parents and alleged that the parents had selected them as nominated counsel. The daughter sought to be named guardian and then a nephew and niece of the parents sought to be named guardians. Upon agreement of the parties an independent guardian was named. Hearings were held and an order issued that: (1) rejected the two lawyers as nominated counsel for the parents; and (2) denied a motion to reconsider a previous denial of a motion for unsupervised visitation by the nephew and niece and change of guardian to the nephew and niece. The allegedly nominated attorneys commenced an appeal which the Supreme Court retained. The trial court also denied a motion for emergency relief to change supervised visitation. A request for extraordinary relief from supervised visitations was filed during the appeal and the request was consolidated with the appeal. Subpoenas duces tecum were quashed relating to the wards' trusts. An additional request for extraordinary relief was filed during the pendency of the appeal based upon the order quashing the subpoenas, and we treat that proceeding as a companion case. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court held that there was sufficient evidence to support the trial court's decision that nominated counsel had a conflict of interest and were not independent, and that Petitioners failed to show that the trial court committed an abuse of discretion or acted in excess of its authority when it denied an emergency motion to modify the supervised visitation, and that while the trial court incorrectly ruled that it lacked jurisdiction to issue subpoenas duces tecum to a trustee of a ward's trust, it must hold a hearing on the objections to the discovery request and adjudicate which parties are entitled to participate in the discovery and determine whether a sustainable objection to discovery exists pursuant to the Discovery Code. View "In the Matter of the Guardianship of Berry" on Justia Law

Yazel v. William K. Warren Medical Research Center

The Tulsa County Assessor assessed ad valorem taxes on portions of real property owned by the respondent-appellees (and taxpayers) William Warren Medical Research Center and Montereau, Inc. The taxpayers challenged the assessment and the County Board of Equalization determined that the properties were not taxable. The Assessor appealed to the Tulsa County District Court which found in favor of the taxpayers. The Assessor again appealed but the Court of Civil Appeals dismissed the appeal because the Assessor was not represented by the district attorney, nor the State Attorney General. On certiorari, the Supreme Court held that county assessors may employ counsel to represent them in court proceedings including appeals from the Board of Equalization. Accordingly, the Court remanded the matter to the Court of Civil Appeals to address the merits of the appeal. View "Yazel v. William K. Warren Medical Research Center" on Justia Law

Roca v. Roca

Debbie Roca (Houston) and Carlos Roca divorced in 1990. The decree of divorce included a child support computation which obligated Roca to pay the sum of $403.70 each month. After ten years of non-payment Houston cited Roca for contempt, alleging Roca had willfully failed to comply with the decree's child support mandates. A jury found the defendant guilty of indirect civil contempt, and he was sentenced to six months incarceration. Additionally, the trial judge imposed a judgment for past due child support in the amount of $85,392.77. In a 2000 judgment, the trial court determined that the principal arrearage owed was $55,400.27. This sum was set as the purge amount. Additionally, the judgment imposed statutory interest on the principal arrearage at a rate of ten percent per year. Neither party appealed this ruling. Following his incarceration, Roca paid $5,000 of the purge fee and was released from custody. The trial court conditioned Roca's release on his payment of $850.00 per month toward current and past due child support. Roca made payments for approximately two years, and on April 16, 2003, the trial court entered an order establishing a reduced purge fee of $40,215.87. The parties also entered into an agreed order lowering Roca's monthly child support payment to $193.74 per month. This order became effective May 1, 2003. The trial court lowered the cumulative monthly payment for current and past due child support from $850.00 to $600.00. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services began administering child support collections for the Roca case in 2003. Roca made monthly payments of $600.00 between June 2003 and August 2009. His support obligation terminated at the end of May 2005, when the parties' child reached the age of majority. In 2009, Roca filed a motion asking the district court to enter an order finding he had satisfied the principal child support arrearage; he further requested termination of the wage assignment. Roca later withdrew the motion and submitted a notice which asserted "all of his court-ordered child support payments" had been paid. The notice acknowledged owing some amount of accrued interest, but maintained that the remainder of his child support obligation had been paid in full. Houston filed an objection, claiming for the first time that all of Roca's previous payments should have been applied in the following order: (1) current child support, (2) interest on the judgment, and finally (3) the principal arrearage. According to Houston's calculations, Roca still owed $84,147.26. A default order was entered adopting the figures presented by Houston. The trial court sustained Roca's motion to vacate. Houston appealed the lower court's ruling and COCA reversed. COCA concluded that the facts of this case required application of the common law rule also known as the United States Rule. By applying the United States Rule, COCA found that Roca's payments should be credited first to current child support, second to accrued interest, and last to the principal balance of past-due child support. Roca appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court vacated COCA's order, finding that Title 43 O.S. Supp. 2002 section 413 and DHS rules required payments made through the Centralized Support Registry in this case to be allocated first to current obligations, second to past due amounts, and finally to interest on the principle balance. View "Roca v. Roca" on Justia Law

Murray County v. Homesales, Inc.

In this appeal, the issue this case presented to the Supreme Court was whether a transfer of real property between affiliated business entities constituted a "sale" for purposes of the Documentary Stamp Tax Act. Defendants Homesales, Inc., JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. and EMC Mortgage, LLC, f/k/a EMC Mortgage Corporation appealed an order granting partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs Murray County, Oklahoma, County Commissioners ex rel. Murray County, Oklahoma and Johnston County, Oklahoma, County Commissioners ex rel. Johnston County, Oklahoma (the Counties). Chase filed four foreclosure cases and was the successful bidder at each sheriff's sale. Therefore, Chase was entitled to a sheriff's deed to each of the properties. However, Chase did not take title. Instead, sheriff's deeds were granted to Chase's affiliated entities. The deeds were recorded with the respective county clerks. The grantees noted on the conveyances that the deeds were exempt from documentary taxes. No documentary taxes were paid. The Counties contended the conveyances involved in this case were not exempt and filed suit to collect the applicable documentary taxes. The district court granted partial summary judgment to the Counties finding that the conveyances were not exempt from the DSTA, and that the Counties could sue to enforce the provisions of the DSTA and collect the documentary taxes that were not paid on these transactions. The Supreme Court, however, concluded that the Counties were not authorized to prosecute violations of the DSTA. The Counties did have standing to challenge the exemptions from the documentary tax claimed for these conveyances. The Court reversed the order granting partial summary judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Murray County v. Homesales, Inc." on Justia Law

Chandler v. Valentine

Physicians Liability Insurance Company (PLICO) insured Defendant Mark Valentine pursuant to a claims made policy with a policy period from July 1, 2004, to December 31, 2006. On November 1, 2004, Valentine operated on David Wurtz. As a result of Valentine's negligence during the operation, Wurtz died. On March 10, 2005, the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure held a hearing to determine whether Valentine should be disciplined. At the hearing, the Board revoked Valentine's license. On March 22, 2005, PLICO notified Valentine by letter that the policy had been cancelled effective March 10, 2005, with "Company's Decision" stated as the reason for cancellation and offered to sell him tail coverage. That letter was followed by another that addressed the premium refund issues and stated that the policy had been cancelled at Valentine's request. On June 2, 2005, Wurtz' personal representative, Tracey Chandler, filed suit against Valentine and others for the wrongful death of Wurtz. Valentine forwarded the petition and summons served on him to PLICO; PLICO sent Valentine a letter denying coverage because the claim was not made until after the policy was cancelled and asserting the policy exclusion for acts performed while under the influence of intoxicating substances. Valentine's debts were discharged in bankruptcy in early 2006. Chandler filed a motion for summary judgment against Valentine; Valentine entered into a Consent Judgment with Chandler in the amount of $2,250,000.00. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Chandler and ruled that Valentine was entitled to a set off by virtue of settlements with other parties in the amount of $1,275,000.00. Chandler filed garnishment proceedings against PLICO in May of 2008. Chandler asserted that Valentine was indebted to Chandler. PLICO denied any indebtedness asserting a lack of coverage under any insurance policy. Both Chandler and PLICO filed motions for summary judgment in the garnishment action. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Chandler, holding that cancellation of the policy violated section 3625 of title 36 and was therefore void. The issue in this matter was whether an insurer may agree to cancel a "claims made" policy with the knowledge that a potential claim is pending without violating the statutory prohibition on retroactive annulment of an insurance policy following the injury, death, or damage for which the insured may be liable. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that it may not and affirmed the trial court. View "Chandler v. Valentine" on Justia Law

Porter v. Oklahoma Farm Bureau Mutual Ins. Co.

On November 14, 2009, sewage entered into and damaged the home of plaintiffs Justin and Brandy Porter. At the time, Plaintiffs' home was insured by defendant Oklahoma Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company under a "Homeowners Special Coverage Policy." Plaintiffs filed a claim for their loss, which defendant denied. Subsequently, plaintiffs filed a petition in the district court for breach of contract and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing. Plaintiffs argued that the district court should follow "Andres v. Oklahoma Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co.," (227 P.3d 1102, cert. denied, (Nov. 23, 2009)) to find that the policy was ambiguous because it contained conflicting provisions on loss caused by water damage and that the doctrine of reasonable expectations required the ambiguity to be construed in favor of coverage. Plaintiffs also argued that defendant committed bad faith when defendant wrote a policy that both includes and excludes a named peril and then denied plaintiffs coverage under the policy. Plaintiffs amended their petition to bring classwide claims on behalf of others similarly situated. Plaintiffs amended their petition a second time to allege "breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and/or fraud," individually and classwide. Plaintiffs' motion for leave to file a second amended petition did not address an individual or class-action fraud claim. Defendant moved to dismiss the class-action claims and the fraud claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendant subsequently stated that the motion to dismiss "[did] not address any other claims" and that "a dispositive motion challenging the merits of Plaintiffs' individual breach of contract and bad faith claims [would] likely be filed in the future." The district court, however, dismissed all claims. The issue before the Supreme Court on appeal was whether the district court erred in granting defendant's motion to dismiss. The resolution of this issue turned on two questions: (1) whether plaintiffs' homeowners policy was ambiguous when the policy covers loss to personal property "caused by . . . accidental discharge or overflow of water from within a plumbing . . . system" (the accidental-discharge-coverage provision) and excluded coverage for loss to real and personal property "resulting directly or indirectly from . . . water which backs up through sewers or drains" (the sewer-or-drain-backup exclusion); (2) if the policy was ambiguous, whether the doctrine of reasonable expectations required the ambiguity to be construed in favor of coverage. The Supreme Court found the district court erred in dismissing the petition in its entirety when the allegations taken as true stated a claim for breach of contract. View "Porter v. Oklahoma Farm Bureau Mutual Ins. Co." on Justia Law