Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Oklahoma Supreme Court
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The issue on appeal was whether the trial court abused its discretion by relying on an attorney's controverted affidavit to prove bad faith litigation conduct and whether the trial court had before it sufficient evidence to support the trial court's award of attorney fees based on maintaining or defending an action in bad faith. The trial court concluded that Durant H.M.A.'s litigation conduct was "done in bad faith, was oppressive, vexatious and willful," and sanctioned Durant to pay Plaintiff's attorney fees and costs. The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial court order in its entirety. The Oklahoma Supreme Court previously granted the petition for certiorari, and now vacated the COCA decision and reversed the trial court's granting of attorney fees and costs. "We recognize that the trial court was very familiar with this case which began in June of 2016, and eventually resulted in judgment entered in January of 2018. The trial court was in the best position to evaluate the demeanor and credibility of the parties and counsel over the course of one-and-a-half years. However, based upon the totality of the record, we find that the trial court had insufficient evidence to support an award of attorney fees as a sanction for bad faith litigation conduct and abused its discretion in finding that Durant's actions amounted to bad faith." View "Whittington v. Durant H.M.A." on Justia Law

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Daniel Cole, after a favorable appellate ruling vacating judgment against him, filed this action including claims for malicious prosecution action against Bank of America, N.A. (Bank) and its legal counsel, Shapiro & Cejda, LLC, Kirk J. Cejda, and Lesli J. Peterson (Attorneys). Cole alleged that Bank and Attorneys acted with malice and without probable cause when they filed a foreclosure action against him and obtained judgment for a loan modification agreement defendants knew he had not signed. Cole alleged that not only was the prior foreclosure action spurious; but Bank intentionally or recklessly hid the fact of a subsequent loan modification by Cole's former wife, until after judgment was obtained against him. He further alleged that Bank and Attorneys made false and misleading statements in their summary judgment motion when they withheld their knowledge of the loan modification and provided only a copy of the original note which Cole and his former wife had signed. Cole pointed out that Bank and Attorneys repeatedly misled him as well as the trial court to believe that there was only a single operative note. Cole stated that he prevailed on appeal and the trial court was directed to vacate the judgment against him. On the same day the trial court vacated judgment, Bank filed a dismissal without prejudice stating that "said defendant not being a necessary party herein." Cole claimed he was entitled to recover compensatory damages to include attorney fees, time missed from work, damage to his credit score, as well as emotional distress and punitive damages. A district court dismissed the claims for malicious prosecution; Cole appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that the original action was terminated in Cole's favor where (1) he succeeded on appeal in vacating judgment; (2) the law of the case established that foreclosure judgment against him was inherently defective; and (3) on remand, bank dismissed Cole from foreclosure action, then amended petition continuing the action against a different party. View "Cole v. Bank of America" on Justia Law

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Four years after appellant-plaintiff Charlie Price filed a medical negligence/wrongful death action because his wife died from a stroke following surgery, the trial court dismissed the case for failure to prosecute. Price moved for new trial arguing that he was denied due process because he was not given adequate notice of the hearing which resulted in the trial court's dismissal of his lawsuit. The trial court denied the motion for new trial, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the trial court. After its review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that because plaintiff was not afforded adequate notice of the hearing in which the trial court dismissed the case, due process required that the dismissal be vacated. View "Price v. Zhang" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellants filed suit in this water rights case claiming that defendants-appellees interfered with their rights by damming a stream that flowed down to plaintiffs' property. After a jury verdict in favor of defendants, plaintiffs appealed. The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals reversed, finding error in the jury instructions and remanded the case. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari found no such errors, vacated the Court of Civil Appeals' decision and affirmed the trial court's denial of the motion for new trial. View "Farris v. Masquelier" on Justia Law

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While divorce proceedings between plaintiff-appellee Arnold Johnson (Husband) and Jacquelyn Johnson (Wife) were pending, Wife changed the primary beneficiary of her individual retirement account (IRA) from Husband to her adult children, defendants-appellants Dirk Snow and Duff Snow (collectively, Children). She also opened a new individual transfer on death (TOD) account and designated Children as the primary beneficiaries. Wife died before the divorce was granted, and the action abated. Thereafter, Husband filed the underlying declaratory judgment action to enforce the automatic temporary injunction entered in the divorce action. The district court concluded that the IRA and the funds used to open the TOD account were marital property and, therefore, Wife's acts violated the automatic temporary injunction, 43 O.S.2011 ยง 110(A)(1)(a), and were ineffective. The district court granted summary judgment to Husband and ordered that he be reinstated as the primary beneficiary of Wife's IRA and awarded the proceeds of the TOD account. Children appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that when the dissolution of marriage action abated, the district court was deprived of its jurisdiction to enforce the automatic temporary injunction. "It is undisputed that Children were designated as the primary beneficiaries at the time of Wife's death and, therefore, they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law." View "Johnson v. Snow" on Justia Law

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Michael Galier brought a negligence and products liability action against Defendant-Appellant Murco Wall Products, Inc., a Texas manufacturer. Galier alleged exposure to Murco's products caused him to contract mesothelioma. The Oklahoma County District Court denied Murco's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and, following a jury trial, granted judgment to Galier. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court denied certiorari. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari, vacated the Court of Civil Appeals' decision, and remanded for reconsideration in light of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, San Francisco County, 137 S. Ct. 1773 (2017). The Court of Civil Appeals reaffirmed the district court. The Oklahoma Supreme Court previously granted certiorari to address whether the Court of Civil Appeals properly found that Oklahoma possesses specific personal jurisdiction over Murco, and determined that it did: " 'relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation' "--supported specific jurisdiction. View "Galier v. Marco Wall Products" on Justia Law

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Appellee Andrea Milne dated Appellant Howard Hudson. During an argument, Hudson became violent with Milne. Milne sought a civil protection order from the McIntosh County district court, as the couple dated in in Eufaula, Oklahoma. She stated in her application, and testified at a hearing, that Hudson first attacked her in a car, slamming her head into the dashboard. When they got to her house, he hit her and threw her across her yard. Finally, he pushed his way into her house, grabbed some of his belongings, and struck her in front of her children. When the children came to her aid, he absconded, but returned later and threatened to burn the house down. Milne testified that after the afternoon of violent acts, he stalked her at home, around town, and at her workplace. This application and testimony, though not tested by investigation or cross-examination, "were certainly enough to justify an order of protection." Hudson objected, claiming that the district court had no jurisdiction to enter the eventual order. Hudson argued that because McIntosh County was within the boundaries of the Muscogee Reservation, Milne was a member of the Muscogee Nation, and Hudson was a member of the Cherokee Nation, the McIntosh District Court had no jurisdiction to enter a civil protective order against him. The trial court denied the objection and entered the civil protection order. The Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision. View "Milne v. Hudson" on Justia Law

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Pro Se respondent-appellant Anthony Hammer (Father) was a member of the Cherokee Nation. His parental rights to his children were terminated, and he sought to collaterally attack the termination order using: McGirt v. Oklahoma, 140 S. Ct. 2452 (2020); the United States' 1866 treaty with the Cherokee, Treaty with the Cherokee, U.S.-Cherokee Nation, July 19, 1866, 14 Stat. 799; and the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Father argued the district court never acquired jurisdiction because the children were domiciled or resided within the Muscogee (Creek) Nation's reservation. The district court implicitly found Children were not residents or domiciliaries of a reservation. At no point in the original proceedings did Father or the tribe allege otherwise. No direct appeal was filed from the original order. Instead, Father brought a claim to vacate more than a year after the judgment terminating his parental rights became final. "A motion to vacate is not a substitute for a timely appeal. A judgment will only be vacated as void if the lack of jurisdiction affirmatively appears on the face of the judgment roll." Because Father failed to demonstrate the judgment was void, the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed the order denying Father's motion to vacate. View "Hammer v. Oklahoma" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, a school district and the school district's superintendent, filed suit o stop the Oklahoma State School Board from taking actions against the school district in the meetings of the Board. The Board continued with its meetings and petitioners filed requests for a restraining order, preliminary injunction, and declaratory judgment to prevent further State Board actions until both the school district and its superintendent obtained administrative individual proceedings. The district court denied the petitioners' requests and they appealed. The State Board continued with its meetings, placed the school district on probation and required an interim superintendent as a condition of probation. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held the Superintendent failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits of his claim that a due process violation occurred, or a likelihood of success on the merits of his claim that his administrative remedy was inadequate, and failed to show he was entitled to a preliminary injunction. The Supreme Court held the School District failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits on a claim the State Board lacked authority to place the school district on probation with a condition requiring an interim superintendent, and failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits of a claim the school district was entitled to an administrative individual proceeding prior to the school district being placed on probation, and school district failed to show it was entitled to a preliminary injunction. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's order. View "Western Heights Independent Sch. Dist. v. Oklahoma" on Justia Law

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After appellant Paul Laubach (father), and the appellee Maria Laubach (mother) divorced, the mother sought approval from the trial court to move across the state with their children. The father objected. Among the numerous orders issued by the trial court in this case was a minute order filed April 17, 2018. After the father's appeal culminated in two consolidated cases, the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals dismissed a portion of the appeals when it held that the April 17, 2018, minute order was an appealable order which was appealed out of time. Consequently, it dismissed the portion of the father's appeals which transpired from that order. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari for the limited purpose of addressing whether written instruments titled "court minute," "minute order," "minute," or "summary order," could ever serve as an appealable order, so as to trigger the time to appeal. To this, the Court held that they did not. Consequently, the Supreme Court vacated the Court of Civil Appeals opinion, and remanded this case to the Court of Civil Appeals for further proceedings. View "Laubach v. Laubach" on Justia Law