Articles Posted in Oklahoma Supreme Court

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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

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Cottonwood Creek watershed was an area covering approximately 379 square miles in parts of Logan, Oklahoma, Canadian and Kingfisher Counties. The area was prone to flooding, and in March of 1962, Logan County Soil and Water Conservation District No. 9 (LCSWCD), Cottonwood Creek Water and Soil Conservancy District No. 11 (CCWSCD), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), prepared a plan to alleviate dangers associated with uncontrolled water flow. One of the structures included in the work plan was Floodwater Retarding Structure No. 54 (FWRS 54). On September 24, 1962, D.C. and Odessa Fitzwater granted an easement (Fitzwater Easement) to CCWSCD. Years later, changes in safety criteria and the development of houses downstream compelled the USDA and Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) to recast FWRS 54 as a high hazard class (c) dam.3 This new classification was based on changes in safety criteria, the development of 26 houses downstream, and the potential for loss of life following a structural failure. In March of 2006, the USDA issued a written proposal calling for the rehabilitation of FWRS 54. The USDA watershed plan suggested multiple repairs and improvements to FWRS 54. Logan County Conservation District (LCCD) filed a declaratory action seeking permission to perform rehabilitation work on FWRS 54. The petition alleged the Fitzwater and Impoundment Easements vested LCCD with the right to complete the rehabilitation project. Property owners Phyllis Crowder and John White, Jr. answered and claimed that the proposed work did not fall within the scope of the original easements. Accordingly, Crowder and White maintained the rehabilitation project would lead to an improper taking of their land. Pleasant Oaks Lake Association (POLA) and individual homeowners also answered, alleging the project would constitute a taking requiring payment of compensation. LCCD filed a motion seeking summary judgment. The motion asserted LCCD was authorized to perform work on FWRS 54 based upon the unambiguous language contained in deeds establishing the Fitzwater and Impoundment Easements. The homeowners and the homeowners association appealed a judgment finding Conservation District was authorized to enter their respective properties to perform the rehabilitation work. The Supreme Court affirmed, finding that the plain language in the deeds creating the easements included a right to ensure the dam's structural integrity through a rehabilitation project. View "Logan County Conservation Dist. v. Pleasant Oaks Homeowners Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Kirks purchased a house in Osage County from Buel and Peggy Neece in 1987. The Kirks signed a Contract for Deed that required monthly payments of $400 to the Neeces. In 1998, the Neeces sold their property to Thomas and Claudia McGinnity and assigned the Contract for Deed to the McGinnitys. The McGinnitys brought claims against the Kirks based upon breach of contract and a foreclosure of the contract for deed. They asserted that the contract for deed was breached by the Kirks due to (1) failing to keep the property insured for full replacement value, (2) conveying an interest in the property to Mary Komonce without express written consent, (3) committing and permitting waste of the real property, (4) failing to keep the buildings and improvements in good repair, and (5) failing to begin immediate restoration. The McGinnitys sought foreclosure as their remedy, with attorney's fees and costs, but did not seek damages. The Kirks asserted estoppel, waiver, duress, accord and satisfaction, laches and claims based upon breach of contract and abuse of process. The trial court denied the McGinnitys' request for judgment at the conclusion of their case in chief. Ultimately, the trial court determined that the Kirks breached the terms of the contract for deed. The trial court granted foreclosure on the real property in rem, quieted title in and to the McGinnitys against any claim of the Kirks and Komonce. The trial court reserved the issue of attorney's fees and costs to be presented to the trial court by a separate motion. The trial court found in favor of the McGinnitys on all of the Kirks' defenses and counterclaims. The Kirks appealed and the trial court's judgment was affirmed by the Court of Civil Appeals. The Kirks petitioned for certiorari review of the Court of Civil Appeals’ judgment. The Supreme Court held that the value of the property exceeded the amount due on the mortgage and no waste was present, but the District Court's finding that the Kirks breached the contract for deed was not against the clear weight of the evidence on the McGinnitys' claims of failure to maintain insurance and the property. The Supreme Court therefore affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of the McGinnitys and against the Kirks on their counterclaims. View "McGinnity v. Kirk" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Erica Wood sued Mercedes-Benz of Oklahoma City for injuries she suffered after she slipped and fell on ice that had accumulated on sidewalks, pavement, and grass surrounding the Defendant's automobile dealership. The icy conditions were caused by Defendant's sprinkler system which activated during freezing temperatures. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendant. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, finding that Mercedes-Benz had a duty to take precautionary measures with regard to the sprinkler system particularly in light of cold temperatures and pooling water caused by the system. Furthermore, there was a question of fact regarding whether Mercedes-Benz breached its duty toward Wood, making summary judgment inappropriate, and requiring the matter be submitted to a jury. View "Wood v. Mercedes-Benz of Oklahoma City" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the issue this case presented to the Supreme Court was whether a transfer of real property between affiliated business entities constituted a "sale" for purposes of the Documentary Stamp Tax Act. Defendants Homesales, Inc., JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. and EMC Mortgage, LLC, f/k/a EMC Mortgage Corporation appealed an order granting partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs Murray County, Oklahoma, County Commissioners ex rel. Murray County, Oklahoma and Johnston County, Oklahoma, County Commissioners ex rel. Johnston County, Oklahoma (the Counties). Chase filed four foreclosure cases and was the successful bidder at each sheriff's sale. Therefore, Chase was entitled to a sheriff's deed to each of the properties. However, Chase did not take title. Instead, sheriff's deeds were granted to Chase's affiliated entities. The deeds were recorded with the respective county clerks. The grantees noted on the conveyances that the deeds were exempt from documentary taxes. No documentary taxes were paid. The Counties contended the conveyances involved in this case were not exempt and filed suit to collect the applicable documentary taxes. The district court granted partial summary judgment to the Counties finding that the conveyances were not exempt from the DSTA, and that the Counties could sue to enforce the provisions of the DSTA and collect the documentary taxes that were not paid on these transactions. The Supreme Court, however, concluded that the Counties were not authorized to prosecute violations of the DSTA. The Counties did have standing to challenge the exemptions from the documentary tax claimed for these conveyances. The Court reversed the order granting partial summary judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Murray County v. Homesales, Inc." on Justia Law

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On November 14, 2009, sewage entered into and damaged the home of plaintiffs Justin and Brandy Porter. At the time, Plaintiffs' home was insured by defendant Oklahoma Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company under a "Homeowners Special Coverage Policy." Plaintiffs filed a claim for their loss, which defendant denied. Subsequently, plaintiffs filed a petition in the district court for breach of contract and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing. Plaintiffs argued that the district court should follow "Andres v. Oklahoma Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co.," (227 P.3d 1102, cert. denied, (Nov. 23, 2009)) to find that the policy was ambiguous because it contained conflicting provisions on loss caused by water damage and that the doctrine of reasonable expectations required the ambiguity to be construed in favor of coverage. Plaintiffs also argued that defendant committed bad faith when defendant wrote a policy that both includes and excludes a named peril and then denied plaintiffs coverage under the policy. Plaintiffs amended their petition to bring classwide claims on behalf of others similarly situated. Plaintiffs amended their petition a second time to allege "breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and/or fraud," individually and classwide. Plaintiffs' motion for leave to file a second amended petition did not address an individual or class-action fraud claim. Defendant moved to dismiss the class-action claims and the fraud claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendant subsequently stated that the motion to dismiss "[did] not address any other claims" and that "a dispositive motion challenging the merits of Plaintiffs' individual breach of contract and bad faith claims [would] likely be filed in the future." The district court, however, dismissed all claims. The issue before the Supreme Court on appeal was whether the district court erred in granting defendant's motion to dismiss. The resolution of this issue turned on two questions: (1) whether plaintiffs' homeowners policy was ambiguous when the policy covers loss to personal property "caused by . . . accidental discharge or overflow of water from within a plumbing . . . system" (the accidental-discharge-coverage provision) and excluded coverage for loss to real and personal property "resulting directly or indirectly from . . . water which backs up through sewers or drains" (the sewer-or-drain-backup exclusion); (2) if the policy was ambiguous, whether the doctrine of reasonable expectations required the ambiguity to be construed in favor of coverage. The Supreme Court found the district court erred in dismissing the petition in its entirety when the allegations taken as true stated a claim for breach of contract. View "Porter v. Oklahoma Farm Bureau Mutual Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant, the State of Oklahoma, ex rel. Department of Transportation ("ODOT"), filed a condemnation proceeding against Lamar Advertising of Oklahoma Inc., and Lamar Central Outdoor, Inc., for the removal of an outdoor advertising sign and the acquisition of Lamar's leasehold interest associated with the sign. ODOT previously acquired the real property on which the sign was located as part of a highway improvement project and, as such, the sign needed to be removed. Lamar erected the sign on the underlying property pursuant to a written lease agreement with the owners of the land. Lamar removed the sign but kept it. ODOT argued that the sign was a trade fixture and that trade fixtures were personal property. As such, ODOT claims Lamar was only entitled to the depreciated reproduction costs of the sign or the costs associated with the sign's relocation. Furthermore, ODOT argued that Lamar's method of valuation improperly allowed for the recovery of lost business income and profits. Lamar argued that regardless of whether the sign is personal or real property, the only criteria was fair market value of the sign and its related interests. Lamar valued its property interests at $429,000 while ODOT valued the property significantly less (roughly $60,000). At the conclusion of trial, the jury returned a verdict awarding Lamar $206,000 in just compensation for its interests. Lamar filed a motion for new trial and a motion to reconsider, both of which the trial court denied. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court concluded that there was competent evidence to support the verdict of the jury as to the amount of damages awarded Lamar. As such, the Court found no grounds for reversing the judgment of the lower court. View "Oklahoma ex rel. Dept. of Transportaion v. Lamar Advertising of Oklahoma, Inc. " on Justia Law

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Glenhurst Homeowners Association ("HOA") filed an action against Xi Family Trust and Xiang Yu Ren ("homeowner"), for breach of real property covenants. The HOA's Petition argued that the covenant for the Glenhurst Addition required all houses built in the neighborhood to have roofs that were a particular weathered wood color. After a hail storm in 2010, the homeowner hired a contractor to replace his roof and told the contractor to put the most energy efficient shingles on the house. The contractor did not put weathered wood colored shingles on the house. The HOA asked the trial court for an injunction, requiring homeowner to remove the nonconforming shingles and install shingles of weathered wood color. After denying a continuance request from homeowner, the trial court granted summary judgment to the homeowners association. Upon review of the record, the Supreme Court found that the trial court's denial of the continuance deprived the homeowner of a reasonable opportunity to properly respond to the homeowners association's motion for summary judgment, and that summary judgment should not have been granted. View "Glenhurst Homeowners Association, Inc. v. Xi Family Trust" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Enerlex, Inc. offered to purchase plaintiffs'-appellees' mineral interest. At the time, plaintiffs did not know that their Seminole County mineral interests were included in a pooling order or that proceeds had accrued under the pooling order. Defendant admitted it knew about the pooling order and the accrued proceeds but did not disclose these facts in making the purchase offer. Plaintiffs signed the mineral deeds which defendant provided and subsequently discovered the pooling order, the production, and the accrued proceeds. Plaintiffs sued for rescission and damages, alleging misrepresentation, deceit and fraud. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed the summary judgment. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded defendant obtained the mineral deeds from plaintiffs by false representation and suppression of the whole truth. Defendant was therefore liable to plaintiffs for constructive fraud. Rescission was the appropriate remedy for defendant's misrepresentation and constructive fraud. Therefore, the Court reversed the appellate court and reinstated the district court's judgment. View "Widner v. Enerlex, Inc." on Justia Law

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The issue presented to the Supreme Court in this case was whether the district court erred in proceeding in the underlying foreclosure suit after the defendant filed a motion giving notice of the plaintiff corporation's suspension in June of 2000 for failure to pay corporate franchise taxes; for the eleven months that the plaintiff was on notice that its suspension was an issue in the suit, the corporation failed to be reinstated; and title 68, section 1212(C) of the Oklahoma Statutes denies a suspended corporation the right to sue or defend. Upon careful consideration, the Supreme Court held that the district court did err in proceeding; the Court therefore issued a writ of mandamus to direct the district court to vacate all orders previously entered. View "Moncrieff-Yeates v. Kane" on Justia Law