Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari to address whether disputed questions of material fact existed which precluded summary judgment in this case. In 1999, defendant-appellant, James Dalke purchased a 2000 Elliot Solitaire Mobile Home for $46,763. He paid $7,100.00 down, and financed the remaining amount with plaintiff-appellee, Green Tree Servicing, LLC. (Green Tree). The loan was perfected on September 29, 1999, at an 11.25% interest rate over 30 years. This resulted in 360 monthly payments of $387.31 totaling $139,431.60. Consequently, the cost for financing $39,877.00 for a mobile home valued at less than $47,000.00, totaled approximately $146,531.00 when the down payment was included. After making half of the total payments for fifteen years, Dalke did not make six months’ worth of payments from December 2014 to June 2015. Green Tree filed a lawsuit against Dalke, alleging that Dalke owed $49,900.34 for the remaining balance on the mobile home, not including attorney fees and other costs which they also sought. By this time, Dalke would have paid approximately $70,000 for the $39,877.00 he financed. Dalke proceeded pro se, and did not respond to Green Tree’s motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted Green Tree’s motion. Dalke appealed, claiming Green Tree went out of its way to obstruct his rights to pay any arrearages, and misrepresented the facts in the affidavit. Therefore, he contended, material fact questions existed which precluded summary judgment. The Supreme Court agreed that multiple disputed material facts existed in this case, and summary judgment was premature. View "Green Tree Servicing, LLC v. Dalke" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought an action against the City of Oklahoma City alleging they suffered damages from a sewer backup. The jury returned a verdict for plaintiffs. The district court reduced the jury award to each couple to $25,000.00 for property damages. Plaintiffs appealed and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court. Plaintiffs appealed and asserted they were entitled to an additional amount per couple as awarded by the jury. The City argued a notice of claim had to specify with particularity property damages and other damages. The judge's decision in reducing the verdict was based upon two concepts: (1) a plaintiff must specify whether damages have occurred to (a) property or (b) "any other loss" as part of the pre-suit notice to the governmental entity, and (2) the absence of such specificity in the notice invalidates the notice as to either type of loss not specifically named with particularity in the notice. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held a claimant's notice of "property damage" without stating "any other loss" in the notice was a sufficient notice for property damage but not sufficient notice for any other loss. The Court held plaintiffs' GTCA notices of claim using the form provided by the City of Oklahoma City and claiming specific damage to their property were also required by the GTCA to provide notice of a claim for personal injuries (or "any other loss") arising from that same transaction or occurrence in order to bring their subsequent suit in District Court for both property damage and personal injury/nuisance. The Court's holding was prospective. The opinion of the Court of Civil Appeals was vacated, the judgment of the District Court was reversed, and the matter was remanded with directions to grant plaintiffs a new trial on both their property and personal injury claims. View "Grisham v. City of Oklahoma City" on Justia Law

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Bob Hensley (Buyer) purchased real estate by contract for deed. He sued the insurer of the property's previous owner, State Farm Fire & Casualty, alleging breach of the implied-in-law duty of good faith. Insurer filed a motion for summary judgment and argued buyer was a stranger to the insurance contract and could not bring an action against insurer. The trial court granted the insurer's motion for summary judgment. The judgment was appealed and affirmed by the Court of Civil Appeals. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held the buyer's action in this case for breach of the implied-in-law duty of good faith by an insurer was based upon his status as an insured or third party beneficiary; and buyer's equitable title to property arising from a contract for deed is insufficient by itself to confer upon him the status of an insured. The Court also held the buyer presented facts on the issue whether he was an intended third party beneficiary, and these facts and their inferences were disputed by insurer. Whether buyer was a third party beneficiary and an insured under the policy based upon disputed facts and inferences was a matter for the trier of fact, and summary judgment for insurer was improvidently granted. View "Hensley v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co." on Justia Law

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Stephens Production Company sought to condemn underground natural gas storage easements and surface easements to complete an underground natural gas storage facility on and underneath approximately 900 acres of mostly rural property in Haskell County. Approximately 140 Defendants were named in the Petition. Stephens Production had previously offered such Defendants "just market value" for their respective interests, but the Defendants refused the offers. The trial court appointed three commissioners to value just compensation due for each Defendant listed in the Petition. All Defendants except one, appellant Royce Larsen, settled with Stephens Production. The Commissioners valued Larsen's property taken and the damage to the remainder at $12,400.00. Larsen objected to this amount, and his case proceeded to trial. Larsen's expert testified the just compensation value was approximately $419,000.00; Stephens Production's expert valued the just compensation at $9,000.00. The trial court determined that just compensation for the property was $9,000.00. Without any evidence from Larsen regarding the reasonable probability of combination or the market demand for underground gas storage in the area, the highest and best use of the property was the use to which it was subject at the time of the taking - natural resource, agricultural, and recreational use. The Supreme Court concluded the record supported the trial court's valuation of just compensation at $9,000.00. View "Stephens Production Co. v. Larsen" on Justia Law

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Prior to filing condemnation proceedings the Appellee Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) offered Appellants, Cedars Group, L.L.C., A. Sam Coury and Bush, Ltd. d/b/a Deer Creek Texaco, (collectively, Coury Defendants), $562,500.00 for the acquisition of certain real property. The offer was not accepted and ODOT commenced two condemnation proceedings. In one, a commissioners' report estimated the value of just compensation for the property to be $285,000.00. In the second proceeding, the value of just compensation was estimated as $177,500.00. The combined value of the two commissioners' awards totaled $462,500.00. The Coury Defendants hired Gregg Renegar's law firm to provide representation in the condemnation proceedings. Pursuant to the firm’s attorney-client agreement, the Coury Defendants agreed to pay forty percent of the difference between an award and jury verdict, plus any attorney’s fees allowed by the court. A jury trial was held, and the jury awarded just compensation of $525,000 for the two tracts. Defendants applied for attorney fees. The trial court determined Defendants were not entitled to an award of fees because they never actually incurred any. In the end, the trial court awarded appraisal fees but denied reasonable attorney, engineering and expert witness fees, costs and expenses of Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part; the case was remanded for a determination of reasonable attorney fees, engineering and expert witness fees, and costs. View "Oklahoma ex rel. Dept. of Trans. v. Cedars Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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BoDe Tower was an Oklahoma limited liability company which owned a tract of land in the Gooseneck Bend area of Muskogee County. In 2009, BoDe Tower began the process of securing authorization from state and federal officials for the construction of a telecommunications tower on the tract in an effort to fill a gap in cellular coverage. Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the BoDe Tower asserting a nuisance claim. Plaintiffs' cause of action was predicated on the placement of a cellular telephone tower adjacent to their respective properties. Following a bench trial, the trial court entered a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and directed BoDe Tower to disassemble the cellular tower. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the judgment. The Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari and concluded the trial court's decision was against the clear weight of the evidence. "Considering the totality of the evidence presented in this case, BoDe's cellular tower cannot be deemed actionable nuisance. Our case law prohibits nuisance claims based entirely on aesthetic concerns. It would be wholly unreasonable to allow one individual's visual sensitivities to impede development of cellular phone service for the residents of Muskogee. BoDe Tower undertook significant investment and complied with all regulatory hurdles. The judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals is vacated, and the trial court's judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs is reversed." View "Laubenstein v. BoDe Tower, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Steven Scott (grantor) owned real property in Canadian County. In 1997, Scott executed a warranty deed conveying 120 acres of the property to defendants-appellees Martin Peters, Jr. and Tammy Peters (grantees). Scott alleged that he only conveyed his surface interest in the 120 acres. In June 2000, Scott agreed to convey the surface only in a remaining 40 acres to the Peters, for a total of 160 acres of the NE/4 of Section 5, Township 13 North, Range 6 West. The warranty deed was executed on June 12, 2000, and filed on June 16, 2000, in the Canadian County Clerk's office. However, no mineral interests were retained by the grantor in this 40 acre deed. By 2014, Scott filed suit against the Peters, seeking to quiet title in the mineral interests on the 160 acres. The Peters answered Scott's allegations and asserted a slander of title claim against the grantor, arguing that they were the owners of the mineral interests in all 160 acres, due to his various conveyances over the years. Further, the Peters argued that any claims relating to the 120 acre tract were also barred by the five year statute of limitations for reformation because the cause was brought more than thirteen years after (as subsequent deed to the same parcel as the Peters') deed was filed, and more than six years after the Peters' oil and gas lease was filed. The trial court denied summary judgment. The trial court held a hearing on the limitations issue, whereby Scott conceded that the five year limitation period for reforming the deed filed in 2000 had expired and that he was consequently precluded from reforming that deed. However, Scott argued that the five year limitation period on reformation of the 1997 deed did not begin to accrue when the deed was filed because it did contain a mineral reservation, but the reservation was alleged to have been insufficient in that deed and a layman, such as himself, should not be held to know the legal effect of such an insufficiency until the legal effect is questioned or disputed. The Oklahoma Supreme retained this case to address the dispositive issue of whether notice imposed upon the grantor by the filing of a deed with the county clerk precluded this action as untimely. The Court held it does, and affirmed the trial court. View "Scott v. Peters" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellants, sisters, Lisa Calvert and Teresa Roper were attorneys in fact for their father, Allen Downy, under a durable power of attorney. He owned Oklahoma real property which included mineral interests. In 2000, acting as attorneys in fact for their father under a durable power of attorney, the sisters entered into an agreement to sell the property (surface only) with Wayland and Dawn Swinford (grantees). The sisters retained Kansas attorney, Randee Koger and his law firm, Wise & Reber (then named Bremyer & Wise) to represent them as their legal counsel and to prepare legal documents in connection with the real property transaction. The sisters also retained Powers Abstract Co., Inc., an Oklahoma abstract company, to perform abstracting and closing functions for the sale of the property. Plaintiffs sold the Oklahoma property, allegedly intending to keep their mineral interests in the property. Twelve years after the deeds were filed, the sisters realized that mineral interests were not reserved and they filed a lawsuit for professional negligence against the abstract office. The abstract office moved for summary judgment arguing that the lawsuit was untimely, which the trial court granted. The issue presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on the dispositive issue of whether the statute of limitations for an action brought by a grantor begins to accrue when a deed is filed with the county clerk. The Court held that it did: any action for negligence regarding the mistaken deeds began to accrue when the deeds were filed. As such, the trial court was affirmed. View "Calvert v. Swinford" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Pat Blair brought an action alleging that a conveyance of real property from her grandmother to her sister, the defendant-appellee Gayle Richardson (grantee), was void because the grandmother (grantor) lacked legal competency and because the deed was executed under undue influence. The trial court ruled in favor of Richardson on both theories of recovery. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed, concluding that the grantor was rendered legally incompetent by operation of 43A O.S. 1961 section 64. Richardson appealed. Finding no reversible error in the appellate court's judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Blair v. Richardson" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Lacey & Associates, LLC, contracted with Everest Homes, LLC, to purchase a commercial building. In addition, Lacey and Everest executed an escrow agreement for the release of additional funds to Everest if the roof was replaced after title had transferred to Lacey. After title passed to Lacey, Everest entered into a contract with the Williams Group, a contractor, to replace the roof. The Williams Group then hired Andrea Pizano to remove the old roof and HVAC units, which service she performed. In early 2013, Pizano sued alleging the Williams Group did not pay the contractual amount of $11,085, as agreed by the two parties. She filed a mechanic's lien on Lacey's building one day before she filed her petition. The lawsuit sought judgment against the Williams Group in the amount of $11,085, plus interest. The Williams Group never filed an answer. The trial court thereafter entered a default judgment against the Williams Group, awarding Pizano $11,085, an attorney's fee of $2,500.00 and court costs of $461.81. Pizano then sought to foreclose her lien against Lacey and be awarded court costs and attorney fees. She requested that the property be sold to satisfy the judgment. Lacey answered and included a "Cross-motion for Summary Judgment," contending that the new roof leaked so badly that large barrels had to be placed inside the building to catch the water. Therefore, no party was entitled to be paid for the roof. Lacey also asserted that Pizano's motion should be denied because Lacey had no contract with Pizano, and also that the plaintiff failed to file the required pre-lien notice. The trial court granted Pizano's summary judgment motion in part, and denied Lacey's counter-motion for summary judgment. Lacey appealed and Pizano counter-appealed. The Court of Civil Appeals held that Pizano successfully preserved her subcontractor's lien, but found that genuine disputes of fact remained as to the amount owed to Pizano and the enforceability of the lien. The Supreme Court found that the Legislature intended amounts less than $10,000 to be exempt from pre-lien notice. Having provided such an exception, the wording of the applicable statute persuaded the Court that "if a claimant filed a claim of $10,085 without a pre-claim notice, the claim would be enforceable up to $9,999. We do not believe that the claim would be completely unenforceable if it exceeded that legislatively-approved amount by a mere $86." The trial court's order entitling Pizano to a reduced judgment amount of $9,999.00 and an award of attorneys' fees and costs was affirmed. This case was remanded to the trial court to issue a judgment consistent with the law as expressed in the Supreme Court's opinion. View "Pizano v. Lacey & Assoc., LLC" on Justia Law