Justia Oklahoma Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
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Latigo Oil & Gas, Inc., an Oklahoma corporation, filed a lawsuit against BP America Production Company, a Delaware corporation, to enforce its preferential right to purchase certain mineral interests that BP had offered for sale as part of a package deal to a third party. Prior to trial, Latigo requested a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunctive relief to prevent BP from selling the interests to the third-party buyer pending trial. The trial court granted Latigo's request for preliminary injunctive relief.The Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial court's decision, finding that the evidence did not show Latigo was likely to succeed on the merits. The court held that BP did not owe Latigo a duty to provide a good-faith allocation of value to the interests burdened by Latigo's preferential right. It found that whether the allocations provided by BP were inflated as alleged by Latigo was irrelevant, as the notices provided by BP met the terms of the operating agreements.The Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma granted certiorari and held that the trial court's grant of injunctive relief was not an abuse of discretion. The court noted that while there was no binding precedent on whether an allocation of value within a package deal must be made in good faith, substantial support for Latigo's position could be found in both Oklahoma precedent and in other jurisdictions. The court affirmed the trial court's decision to grant preliminary injunctive relief and remanded for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "LATIGO OIL & GAS v. BP AMERICA PRODUCTION CO." on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a contract dispute over roofing work done in conjunction with the purchase of a house. The appellant, Carl Fleig, had purchased a house from homeowners who had contracted with the appellee, Landmark Construction Group, to replace a hail-damaged roof. After the purchase, the new roof leaked, causing damage to the house. Landmark refused to address the leaks, arguing that any warranty given to the prior homeowners did not transfer to Fleig. Fleig sued Landmark, asserting theories of implied warranty, contractual warranty, and fraud.The case was initially heard by two trial judges and was appealed twice. The trial court granted Landmark's motion for a directed verdict and awarded Landmark $5,000 in attorney fees. Fleig appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the trial court. The Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma vacated the Court of Civil Appeals opinion and remanded the matter to the trial court. After a second bench trial, the trial court entered an award against Landmark for $2,725. Fleig appealed again, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the trial court in part, reversed it in part, and remanded the cause.The Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma granted certiorari to address whether the trial court's order awarding attorney fees evidenced that the trial court complied with the directives of State ex rel. Burk v. City of Oklahoma City. The court held that it did not. The court found that the trial court order awarding attorney fees did not set forth with specificity the facts and computation to support the award. The court held that the trial court must make findings of fact incorporated into the record regarding the hours spent, reasonable hourly rates, and the value placed on additional factors. The court vacated the Court of Civil Appeals opinion in part, reversed the trial court in part, and remanded the cause for proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "Fleig v. Landmark Construction Group" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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