Justia Oklahoma Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property 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

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The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari to address first impression questions of: (1) whether a home warranty plan met the definition of an insurance contract; (2) and if it was insurance, whether a forced arbitration clause in such a contract was unenforceable under the Oklahoma Uniform Arbitration Act; (3) whether 12 O.S. 2011 section 1855 of the Oklahoma Uniform Arbitration Act was a state law enacted for the purpose of regulating insurance under the McCarran-Ferguson Act; and (4) whether pursuant to the McCarran-Ferguson Act, did section 1855 preempted the application of the Federal Arbitration Act. The Supreme Court answered all questions in the affirmative. View "Sparks v. Old Republic Home Protection Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Hub Partners XXVI, Ltd. filed a foreclosure action against Thomas Barnett. The district court granted Hub a money and foreclosure judgment. Barnett filed for bankruptcy. During the bankruptcy, Barnett made court-approved payments to Hub. Barnett failed to pay the debt in full, and the bankruptcy court dismissed his bankruptcy. Over a month after the dismissal, Hub issued an execution on the pre-bankruptcy judgment. Barnett objected to the execution arguing the judgment was dormant pursuant to 12 O.S. 735, since more than five years had passed and Hub had not renewed the judgment. The district court agreed and granted Barnett's motion to release the dormant judgment and vacate the execution and sale order. Hub appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the district court's judgment. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve: (1) whether Hub's foreclosure judgment was dormant; and (2) whether the mortgage at issue merged with the foreclosure judgment. The Supreme Court held the 2011 foreclosure judgment was dormant, but the mortgage lien did not merge into the foreclosure judgment and continues to secure Barnett's obligation owed to Hub. View "Hub Partners XXVI, Ltd. v. Barnett" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff/Appellant was the vested remainderman of his father's life estate in the surface rights of land in Canadian County, Oklahoma (the "Property"). Defendant Cimarex Energy Company was the lessee of the Property's mineral interests. Plaintiff filed suit alleging that he was entitled to compensation for the surface damages caused by the drilling of wells and entitled to be notified of negotiations to determine surface damages because he was a "surface owner" within the meaning of the Surface Damages Act (SDA), 52 O.S. sections 318.2 et seq. Defendant moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim arguing Plaintiff was not an owner within the meaning of the SDA, and even if he were an owner, his proper remedy was to seek compensation from the life tenant. The trial court sustained the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss finding the Remainderman was not a "surface owner" under the SDA. Plaintiff appealed. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial court's ruling interpreting "surface owner" under the SDA to include vested remainder interests. The Oklahoma Supreme Court found the SDA's definition of surface owner was ambiguous, and was persuaded by the common meaning, expressed legislative intent, and interests of justice that the SDA's use of surface owner applies only to those holding a current possessory interest. Under the SDA, a mineral lessee must negotiate surface damages with those who hold a current possessory interest in the property. A vested remainderman did not hold a current possessory interest until the life estate has come to its natural end. The Court of Civil Appeals’ decision was vacated and the trial court affirmed. View "Hobson v. Cimarex Energy Co," on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Oklahoma Schools Risk Management Trust (OSRMT) brought a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration it was not liable for losses sustained by McAlester Public Schools resulting from a ruptured water pipe in one of its schools. McAlester Public Schools answered, alleged breach of contract by plaintiff, and sought indemnification for its losses. A trial court granted summary judgment for Oklahoma Schools Risk Management Trust on its request for declaratory relief and against McAlester Public Schools on its indemnity claim. McAlester Public Schools appealed the judgment. The Oklahoma Supreme Court agreed with McAlester Schools that OSMRT failed to show a policy-based exclusion to coverage, reversed summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Okla. Schools Risk Management Trust v. McAlester Pub. Schools" on Justia 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