Justia Oklahoma Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Contracts
Accident Care & Treatment Center v. CSAA General Insurance Co.
Medical providers sued insurance company to enforce their perfected medical liens for professional services rendered to a person injured in a car accident. Insurance company disputed the: (1) reasonableness of the charges; and (2) necessity of the services. The providers argued the insurance company had no legal standing to dispute these issues, absent an assignment from the injured party. Although Insurance company prepared the "Release" with the injured person, it failed to include such an assignment. Insurance company argued that in spite of this omission, there was an "implied" assignment from the injured party as evidenced by precontract settlement discussions. The trial court ruled that there was no assignment in the executed written release and that insurance company was barred by the Parol Evidence Rule from presenting evidence to establish an implied assignment. The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial court holding that summary judgment was not proper when there was a question of fact surrounding the issue of an assignment. The Oklahoma Supreme Court found there was no assignment in the executed release and there was no question of fact on material issues. Without evidence of fraud, the Court found precontract negotiations and all discussions were merged into and superseded by the terms of an executed written release. The decision of the Court of Civil Appeals was vacated; and this matter was remanded to the trial court for proceedings. View "Accident Care & Treatment Center v. CSAA General Insurance Co." on Justia Law
U.S. Bank National Assoc. v. Hill
In 2002, the Defendant-appellee Carmela Hill (Hill) pursued counterclaims against U.S. Bank and its mortgage servicer Nationstar following bank's dismissal of its foreclosure action against Hill. A jury returned a verdict against bank on borrower's wrongful foreclosure claim and a verdict against the mortgage servicer on multiple claims including violations of the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act (OCPA) and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The trial court awarded attorney's fees and costs to Hill. The Bank and mortgage servicer appealed and Hill counter-appealed. The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals dismissed in part borrower's appeal and found neither the OCPA or the FDCPA was applicable. It reversed the attorney's fee award and reduced the amount of awarded costs. In addition, it reversed the wrongful foreclosure judgment against bank and affirmed the remainder of the judgment which concerned breach of contract and tort claims against the mortgage servicer. The Oklahoma Supreme Court dismissed that portion of Hill's appeal seeking review of the trial court's Category II punitive damages ruling; reversed Hill's wrongful foreclosure judgment against U.S. Bank; reversed the OCPA portion of the judgment against Nationstar; affirmed the FDCPA portion of the judgment against Nationstar, including the $1,000.00 award under the FDCPA; reversed the award of attorney's fees and remanded the matter to the trial court to determine a reasonable attorney's fee consistent with the Court's opinion; and reversed $1,223.39 of the costs awarded to Hill. The remainder of the judgment was affirmed. View "U.S. Bank National Assoc. v. Hill" on Justia Law
Tres C, LLC v. Raker Resources
Plaintiff-respondent Tres C, LLC was an Oklahoma limited liability company whose members were Viola "Tincy" Cowan, her son David Cowan, her daughter Karlea Cowan Ewald, her grandson Scot Meier, and her granddaughter Marsha Bukowski. Tres C was a successor-in-interest to certain mineral interests a the 320-acre lot in Blaine County, Oklahoma, that were formerly owned by the parents of Tincy's late husband, George and Coral Cowan. In February 1955, George and Carol Cowan executed an oil and gas lease in favor of J.J. Wright (hereinafter "the Lessee") concerning those mineral interests. Under its habendum clause, the Cowan Lease would remain valid for a primary term lasting 10 years and then--so long as a producing well was drilled--for a secondary term lasting "as long thereafter as oil, gas, casinghead gas, casinghead gasoline, or any of the products covered by this lease is or can be produced." Defendants-petitioners were the Lessee's current successors-in-interest under the Cowan Lease. This appeal concerned the trial court's judgment that granted Plaintiff's petition to cancel defendant's oil and gas lease and to quiet title in its favor so that a third party could exercise the option of executing a new lease. The Court of Civil Appeals conditionally affirmed the trial court's judgment, but remanded the matter with instructions to address the noncontractual defense of obstructions, set forth in Jones v. Moore, 338 P.2d 872. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari to address whether the trial court erred in applying a rule of law that analyzed only a 3-month window of time for assessing whether a dip in the existing well's production was a cessation of production in paying quantities such that defendants' lease expired by its own terms. On de novo review, the Court found the trial court did err insofar as it relied upon the lease's cessation-of-production clause to define the time period for assessing profitability. The Court vacated the Court of Civil Appeals' opinion, reversed the trial court's judgment, quieted title in favor of Defendants, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Tres C, LLC v. Raker Resources" on Justia Law
Cherokee Nation v. Lexington Insurance Co., et al.
Cherokee Nation filed a declaratory judgment action seeking insurance coverage under the business interruption provision of a policy issued by a number of insurers for the economic losses it incurred when it temporarily closed its properties due to the threat of COVID-19. The district court granted Cherokee Nation's motion for partial summary judgment, holding the phrase "direct physical loss" in the business interruption provision of the policy included coverage for losses sustained by property rendered unusable for its intended purpose. The district court also found that none of the exclusions raised by the insurers applied to Cherokee Nation's loss. The insurers appealed, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court retained the appeal, holding that Cherokee Nation's losses were not covered under the business interruption section of the insurance policy at issue. The district court erred in finding business interruption coverage when Cherokee Nation did not sustain immediate, tangible deprivation or destruction of property. View "Cherokee Nation v. Lexington Insurance Co., et al." on Justia Law
Patel v. Tulsa Pain Consultants
Plaintiff-appellant Jayen Patel, M.D. brought a tort claim for wrongful termination against defendant-appellee Tulsa Pain Consultants, Inc. (TPC). The trial court found Patel was not an at-will employee and entered a directed verdict in favor of TPC. Patel appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. TPC moved for appeal-related attorney fees, which the Court of Civil Appeals denied. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether TPC had a contractual right to recover attorney fees as the prevailing party in Patel's wrongful termination claim. After review, the Supreme Court found that the specific language in the parties' employment agreement authorized attorney fees in this case. View "Patel v. Tulsa Pain Consultants" on Justia Law
Crown Energy Co. v. Mid-Continent Casualty Co.
Crown Energy Company ("Crown") brought suit against Mid-Continent Casualty Company ("Mid-Continent") seeking declaratory judgment that two commercial general liability policies issued to Crown provided coverage for claims of property damage brought against Crown in a separate action. The claims arose out of seismic activity allegedly caused by Crown's use of waste water disposal wells in its oil and gas operations. Mid-Continent filed a counterclaim, seeking declaratory judgment that the claims were not covered under the policies because the seismic activity did not constitute an "occurrence" and that the claims fell within a pollution exclusion to the policies. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Crown. Mid-Continent appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment. After its review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found that the seismic activity did constitute an occurrence under the policies, and that the pollution exclusion did not bar coverage. The Court of Civil Appeals’ judgment was reversed and the trial court affirmed. View "Crown Energy Co. v. Mid-Continent Casualty Co." on Justia Law
Coates v. Progressive Direct Ins. Co.
Plaintiff-appellant John Coates brought an action for breach of contract and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing against defendant-appellee Progressive Direct Insurance Company. Plaintiff was injured after a motorcycle collision; he was insured by Progressive under a motorcycle policy, an auto policy, and a policy providing UM coverage. Coates moved for partial summary judgment regarding his entitlement to uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits. Progressive moved for summary judgment regarding Coates' bad faith claim. Coates sought more time to conduct discovery to address Progressive's counterclaim on bad faith. The trial court granted Coates' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, allowing his UM claim against Progressive. The trial court also granted Progressive's Motion for Summary Judgment, denying Coates' claim for breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing. The trial court denied Coates' Motion for Additional Time to Respond. After review of the parties’ arguments on appeal, the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of partial summary judgment on Coates' UM claim. The Court reversed, however, the decisions granting Progressive's Motion for Summary Judgment and denying Coates additional time to respond to that motion. View "Coates v. Progressive Direct Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Continental Resources v. Wolla Oilfield Services
The United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma certified two questions of law to the Oklahoma Supreme Court relating to the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act, and whether it applied to conduct outside of Oklahoma. The matter concenred a dispute between Continental Resources, Inc. (Continental), an oil and gas producer headquartered in Oklahoma, and Wolla Oilfield Services, LLC (Wolla), a North Dakota limited liability company that operated as a hot oil service provider in North Dakota. Continental alleged the parties entered into an agreement for Wolla to provide hot oil services at an hourly rate to Continental's wells in North Dakota. As part of the contract, Wolla agreed to submit its invoices through an "online billing system" and to bill accurately and comprehensively for work it performed. A whistleblower in Wolla's accounting department notified Continental about systematic overbilling in connection with this arrangement. Continental conducted an audit and concluded Wolla's employees were overbilling it for time worked. Wolla denies these allegations. The Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded: (1) the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act does not apply to a consumer transaction when the offending conduct that triggers the Act occurs solely within the physical boundaries of another state; and (2) the Act also does not apply to conduct where, even if the physical location is difficult to pinpoint, such actions or transactions have a material impact on, or material nexus to, a consumer in the state of Oklahoma. View "Continental Resources v. Wolla Oilfield Services" on Justia Law
Meng v. Rahimi
Li Meng ("Tenant") leased a commercial property from the Plaintiffs, Mohammad Rahimi and Tahereh Dinpajooh ("Landlords") in August, 2019 for the sole purpose of operating a massage business for a two year term. The parties specifically agreed in the written lease that Tenant use of the commercial space was for the sole purpose of conducting a massage business and Tenant was prohibited from using the space for any other purpose. The Landlords prohibited any use of the leased premises which could endanger life. The Landlords noted that even though Tenant was prohibited from any use of the premises which violated public law or governmental rule, the lease specified there would be no abatement of rent even if there was a loss of business arising from some future law. Landlords argued that Tenant's obligation to pay rent was not excused because of these lease provisions. In January, 2020, approximately five months after the parties executed the lease, the first case of the COVID-19 virus was reported within the United States and soon thereafter in Oklahoma. In March, the Oklahoma governor declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19 and businesses that were not part of critical infrastructure were ordered to close for a period of time. Tenant stated that she closed the business on March 19, 2020 after she and her sole employee became ill with symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. Tenant did not pay rent after March 2020, and she never re-opened her business. By June 2020, Landlords filed this action against the Tenant for past due rent and eviction. Tenant argued that rent was not due from April through August because performance of the contract had become impossible in light of the public health risk with massage which temporarily excused the payment of rent under the doctrine of frustration of purpose or impracticability. The court stated that the defense of impracticability was not a legitimate excuse for the nonpayment of rent and did not allow Tenant to present any evidence in support of this defense. The trial court awarded Landlords $6,400 in past due rent and granted them possession. The Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed the trial court, finding that the trial court erred when it did not allow Tenant to present evidence in support of the affirmative defense. View "Meng v. Rahimi" on Justia Law
Lane v. Progressive Northern Ins. Co.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit certified a question of law to the Oklahoma Supreme Court on whether Progressive Northern Insurance Company's Underinsured Motorist (UM) Exclusion--which operated to deny uninsured motorist coverage to insureds who recover at least the statutorily mandated minimum in the form of liability coverage--contravened Oklahoma's Uninsured Motorist Statute, codified at 36 O.S. section 3636. The Supreme Court responded "yes:" Because of the sweeping nature of the UM Exclusion contained in the insurance policy at issue, Progressive found a way to entirely avoid providing the promised coverage. "[A]n insurer in Oklahoma cannot deprive its policyholder of uninsured-motorist coverage for which a premium has been paid through an exclusion that effectively erases its policyholder's choice to purchase that coverage in the first place. We conclude that Progressive's UM Exclusion contravenes section 3636 and is therefore void as against public policy." View "Lane v. Progressive Northern Ins. Co." on Justia Law