Justia Oklahoma Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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The limited issue before the Oklahoma Supreme Court in this case was whether Appellants Steve and Kaci Snow (the Snows) had standing to assert a claim for inverse condemnation against the Town of Calumet (Town), Oklahoma. Landowners sued the Town for trespass and inverse condemnation due to maintaining two municipal sewer lines across the owners' property after the expiration of two temporary easements. The town counterclaimed to quiet title. Both parties moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the landowners' motion for summary judgment on the town's quiet-title claim and granted the town's motion for summary judgment on the landowners' claims for trespass and inverse condemnation. The landowners appealed the district court's judgment on their inverse condemnation claim. The Supreme Court answered the issue presented in the affirmative. Town's temporary easements for sewer lines installed by Town on the Snows' property expired in 2010, and Town then sought perpetual easements without compensation from the Snows for the continual use and maintenance of the sewer lines. Under these facts, the Snows had standing to assert a claim for inverse condemnation. View "Snow v. Town of Calumet" on Justia Law

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An automobile driven by defendant Patrick McLaughlan, struck plaintiff Jerry Harwood while Harwood was leaving his work shift and crossing the street to an employer provided parking lot. After an unsuccessful attempt to recover workers compensation benefits for his injuries, Harwood filed a lawsuit against the driver and his employer. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit against the employer for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Harwood appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that because an employer may have assumed the duty to provide a safer crosswalk for access to an employer designated parking lot, the employee pled a claim for relief which is legally possible. The trial court's dismissal was premature. View "Harwood v. Ardagh Group" on Justia Law

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The Okay Public Works Authority (OPWA) appealed a jury verdict in an inverse condemnation lawsuit. The jury found that a taking occurred when OPWA installed wastewater sewer lines in a mobile home community. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed the district court's judgment holding OPWA did not possess the power of eminent domain over the installation of wastewater sewer lines. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari, and held that the Legislature granted eminent domain power to OPWA for the transportation, delivery, treatment, and furnishing of water for domestic purposes, which included the power to install wastewater sewer lines in the mobile home community. View "Barnett v. Okay Public Works Authority" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-respondent Keely Rickard purchased the subject residential real property from the Coulimore Family Living Trust, U/A/D March 6, 2014 ("the Coulimore Trust"). Rickard later sued Defendants-petitioners Jonathan Coulimore and Elinor Coulimore, individually, and as Trustees of the Coulimore Trust, for damages from defects they failed to disclose. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari to review a certified interlocutory order to determine whether the transaction was exempt from the Residential Property Condition Disclosure Act (RPCDA). The Court found the transaction was a transfer by a fiduciary who was not an owner occupant of the subject property in the course of the administration of a trust and, pursuant to 60 O.S.2011 section 838(A)(3), the transaction was exempt from the RPCDA. The Court therefore affirmed partial summary judgment as to the inapplicability of the RPCDA and remanded for further proceedings. View "Rickard v. Coulimore" on Justia Law

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Appellee Highpointe Energy filed a quiet title action in Oklahoma against appellants the Viersens, and others. The disputed property concerned mineral interests from two different chains of title: one chain stemmed from a bankruptcy proceeding, while the other chain arose from a mortgage foreclosure proceeding and subsequent sheriff's sale. The trial court determined that the chain resulting from the foreclosure/sheriff's sale was superior to the bankruptcy chain. The Viersens appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that because the bankruptcy purchasers could secure no greater rights in the disputed property than the bankruptcy trustee held, the purchasers from the mortgage foreclosure proceeding held the superior title. View "Highpointe Energy v. Viersen" on Justia Law

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The dispute in this case centered on two oil-and-gas-producing formations known as the Chester and the Marmaton, located in Beaver County, Oklahoma. In 1973, Arnold Petroleum, Inc., the predecessor in interest to plaintiffs (collectively, "Arnold") obtained six oil-and-gas leases covering land in Beaver County. Over the course of 1973 and 1974, Arnold Petroleum assigned its leases to Dyco Petroleum Corporation, expressly reserving an overriding royalty interest in any oil and gas produced under the leases. Dyco assigned the leases to Harold Courson, the predecessor in interest of defendant Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation. This assignment, too, was expressly subject to Arnold's overriding royalty interest. Two wells drilled in the Chester formation produced "mostly gas with some oil" continuously since the mid-1970s, and at no point since then did Arnold ever stop receiving payments on its overriding royalty interest in those producing wells. In 1984, Courson obtained several new leases from the mineral owners who had granted the 1973 leases. The 1984 leases purported to cover the same rights as the original 1973 leases, but were silent as to any particular geologic formation or zone. Arnold did not become aware of the 1984 leases until 1999 when it and other royalty holders received a letter from Courson explaining he had recompleted a well in the Chester formation that had originally been drilled into the separate Lower Chester formation by Natural Gas Anadarko, Inc. (NGA). In the 1999 conversation, a Courson employee told the Arnold landman the 1984 leases covered only "deep rights" or "lower depths" that had expired under the 1973 leases. This assertion would exclude the Marmaton. For the next 13 years, the matter of the Marmaton formation would remain dormant. Courson assigned his leases to Cabot in August 2011, and Cabot drilled and completed several horizontal wells in the Marmaton. Cabot rejected Arnold's request for payment, and Arnold sued in October 2012, seeking damages for nonpayment of royalties. Cabot argued Arnold's claims were barred because the applicable statute of limitations began to run with the filing of the new leases in 1984, which event (in Cabot's view) should have put Arnold on notice of an adverse claim to the Marmaton. The issue presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court's review was whether plaintiffs waited too long in asserting their right to payment of the overriding royalty interest. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial court's judgment in favor of plaintiffs on those grounds. The Supreme Court disagreed: this litigation could not have arisen until defendant first developed the disputed formation in 2012, and then refused plaintiffs' request for payment of royalties from that production. "Nothing preceding that sequence of events could reasonably have foreclosed plaintiffs' ability to press their claim for the payments to which they were entitled under valid mineral leases." View "Claude C. Arnold Non-Operated Royalty Interest Properties v. Cabot Oil & Gas Corp." on Justia Law

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Tokiko Johnson's real property was damaged in a storm and she filed a claim with her insurance company. Johnson also executed an assignment of her insurance claim for the purpose of repairing the property with the execution in favor of Triple Diamond Construction LLC (the construction company). An appraiser retained by the construction company determined storm damage to the property in the amount of $36,346.06. The insurer determined the amount of damage due to the storm was $21,725.36. When sued, the insurer argued the insured property owner was required to obtain written consent from the insurer prior to making the assignment. The Oklahoma Supreme Court determined an insured's post-loss assignment of a property insurance claim was an assignment of a chose in action and not an assignment of the insured's policy. Therefore, the insured's assignment was not prohibited by either the insurance policy or 36 O.S. section 3624. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. The insurer's motion to dismiss the appeal was thus denied. View "Johnson v. CSAA General Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellee Revolution Resources, LLC, (Revolution), an oil and gas well operator, filed an action under the Oklahoma Surface Damages Act (SDA), to Appoint Appraisers. In February 2018, Revolution acquired and became the operator of a 30,000 acre unit that was created in 1947 pursuant to Order 20212 of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC). The unit wasknown as the West Edmond Hunton Lime Unit (WEHLU). Defendant-appellant Annecy, LLC, (Annecy) purchased the subject premises in August 2019, with the intent to build expensive luxury homes. Appellant unsuccessfully sought a temporary injunction against Appellee's operations. Appellant appealed the interlocutory order denying its motion for temporary injunction. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted an injunction pending the appeal. Appellant was required to post a bond securing the cost and attorney fees of the Appellee if the Supreme Court determined later the temporary injunction should not have been granted. The Supreme Court concluded the injunction should not have been granted: Annecy purchased its surface estate subject to the outstanding mineral estate held by Revolution. Annecy's surface estate is servient to that of Revolution's mineral estate. Annecy did not meet its burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that it would be irreparably harmed by Revolution's oil and gas operations. Having failed to establish one of the four factors required, i.e., irreparable harm, by clear and convincing evidence, Annecy did not meet its burden to prove all necessary factors to obtain extraordinary relief, therefore its motion for temporary injunction was correctly denied. The temporary injunction granted by the Supreme Court was dissolved, and the matter remanded for further proceedings to determine the costs and attorney fees owed the Appellee which were secured by bond. View "Revolution Resources, LLC v. Annecy, LLC" on Justia Law

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Appellant operating company, Stephens & Johnson Operating Company (Operator), requested an award of attorney fees and costs in this case brought under the Oklahoma Surface Damages Act. Operator claimed it was entitled to the fees and costs as the prevailing party in the underlying suit since the State of Oklahoma ex rel. the Commissioners of the Land Office (Surface Owner) did not recover a jury verdict greater than the appraisers' award. The Oklahoma Supreme Court found the statutes in question did not provide for fees and costs to the prevailing party but instead imposed specific conditions which were not satisfied in this case. View "Oklahoma, ex rel. Comm'rs of Land Office v. Stephens & Johnson Operating Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioners and respondents owned real property in McClain County, Oklahoma, containing and abutting Colbert Lake (the Lake). Petitioners also owned real property containing Colbert Creek, which was the sole source of water that fed the Lake. Respondents sought a permit from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB), to sell water from the Lake to oil companies for use in fracking operations. The only notice that the OWRB provided to petitioners of the respondents' permit application was by publication in newspapers. The permits were issued, and petitioners subsequently filed suit at the district court, arguing that they were not given proper and sufficient notice of the permit proceedings. The district court dismissed the lawsuit in a certified interlocutory order, and petitioners appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari to address the proper, constitutionally required notice to landowners in such proceedings. The Court held that the notice given was inadequate, therefore judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for for further proceedings. View "Purcell v. Parker" on Justia Law