Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Oklahoma Supreme Court
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Plaintiff-appellant John Coates brought an action for breach of contract and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing against defendant-appellee Progressive Direct Insurance Company. Plaintiff was injured after a motorcycle collision; he was insured by Progressive under a motorcycle policy, an auto policy, and a policy providing UM coverage. Coates moved for partial summary judgment regarding his entitlement to uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits. Progressive moved for summary judgment regarding Coates' bad faith claim. Coates sought more time to conduct discovery to address Progressive's counterclaim on bad faith. The trial court granted Coates' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, allowing his UM claim against Progressive. The trial court also granted Progressive's Motion for Summary Judgment, denying Coates' claim for breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing. The trial court denied Coates' Motion for Additional Time to Respond. After review of the parties’ arguments on appeal, the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of partial summary judgment on Coates' UM claim. The Court reversed, however, the decisions granting Progressive's Motion for Summary Judgment and denying Coates additional time to respond to that motion. View "Coates v. Progressive Direct Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma certified two questions of law to the Oklahoma Supreme Court relating to the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act, and whether it applied to conduct outside of Oklahoma. The matter concenred a dispute between Continental Resources, Inc. (Continental), an oil and gas producer headquartered in Oklahoma, and Wolla Oilfield Services, LLC (Wolla), a North Dakota limited liability company that operated as a hot oil service provider in North Dakota. Continental alleged the parties entered into an agreement for Wolla to provide hot oil services at an hourly rate to Continental's wells in North Dakota. As part of the contract, Wolla agreed to submit its invoices through an "online billing system" and to bill accurately and comprehensively for work it performed. A whistleblower in Wolla's accounting department notified Continental about systematic overbilling in connection with this arrangement. Continental conducted an audit and concluded Wolla's employees were overbilling it for time worked. Wolla denies these allegations. The Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded: (1) the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act does not apply to a consumer transaction when the offending conduct that triggers the Act occurs solely within the physical boundaries of another state; and (2) the Act also does not apply to conduct where, even if the physical location is difficult to pinpoint, such actions or transactions have a material impact on, or material nexus to, a consumer in the state of Oklahoma. View "Continental Resources v. Wolla Oilfield Services" on Justia Law

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On July 9, 2020, the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, 140 S. Ct. 2452 (2020), determining that Congress never disestablished the Creek Reservation in eastern Oklahoma and, therefore, it was "Indian country" for purposes of the Major Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 1153. Under the Major Crimes Act, "[o]nly the federal government, not the State, may prosecute Indians for major crimes committed in Indian country." Relying on McGirt, Plaintiffs-appellants Jason Nicholson, Justin Hooper, Cael Burgess, and Derek Hair filed the underlying civil suit seeking to recover fines and fees they were ordered to pay as a result of allegedly unlawful prosecutions by the State and certain municipalities. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that the trial court properly dismissed Plaintiffs' claims for money had and received. Plaintiffs' claims required a determination that their state and municipal court criminal convictions and sentences were invalid. “Challenges to criminal jurisdiction are governed by the Post-Conviction Procedure Act. … Plaintiffs' convictions and sentences cannot be invalidated by the trial court in this civil action for money had and received. As a result, Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” View "Nicholson v. Stitt" on Justia Law

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Procedurally, after an initial determination of child support and custody, Appellee Kirsten Friend (Mother) sought to modify the child support order and applied to find Appellant Brian Friend (Father) in contempt, claiming he had not paid child support for several months. The district court granted Mother's motions. The trial court found Father in indirect contempt and increased the child support payment. Mother asked for attorney fees and costs, dividing the request into fees incurred for the request to modify child support and fees incurred for the contempt request. Father objected but conceded the only issue was whether Mother was legally entitled to the fees. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that, where a prevailing party is entitled to attorney fees below, they are also entitled to appellate attorney fees; where an award of attorney fees is within the trial court's discretion, a prevailing party may be granted appellate attorney fees. View "Friend v. Friend" on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari to review a certified interlocutory order dismissing Defendant-respondent OSU Medical Trust, doing business as OSU Medical Center (OSUMC), from a medical malpractice lawsuit. The issue was whether Plaintiffs-appellants Miranda and Colby Crawford, Natural Parents and on Behalf of C.C.C., a Minor, and Miranda and Colby Crawford, Individually (collectively, the Crawfords) complied with the notice provisions of the Governmental Tort Claims Act (GTCA). The Supreme Court held that the Crawfords failed to present notice of their tort claim within one year of the date the loss occurred and, pursuant to 51 O.S.Supp.2012 section 156(B), their claims against OSUMC were forever barred. The Court thus affirmed the trial court's order dismissing OSUMC with prejudice. View "Crawford v. OSU Medical Trust" on Justia Law

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Appellant Jeffrey Booth, then an installation service manager for Appellee Home Depot, U.S.A., noticed at a job site that a customer was being charged for window wraps that were not needed. Booth phoned and emailed his supervisor about the perceived overcharge. The next day, Appellee began an investigation of Booth for an email he sent ten days earlier critiquing a colleague's work performance. After a one-day investigation of the allegation in the email, and two days after the overcharge report, Appellant Booth was terminated. Booth sued Home Depot in Oklahoma state court claiming wrongful termination under Burk v. K-Mart Corp., 770 P.2d 24 (1989), alleging his job performance was good and that the email investigation was only a pretext for the real reason for termination -- his reporting of the overcharging of customers to his supervisor. Home Depot removed the Oklahoma County case to the federal district court under diversity jurisdiction. In his amended federal complaint, Booth claimed that the overcharging of customers violated the Oklahoma Home Repair Fraud Act and/or the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act. Home Depot did not dispute that, if overcharging occurred, it would violate those acts. Home Depot argued that the violation of the statutes did not articulate a clear mandate of Oklahoma public policy sufficient to support a Burk tort. The federal district court agreed with Home Depot that the statutes did not articulate a clear public policy and dismissed the petition for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Booth then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which then certified a question about the statutes to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The Supreme Court responded: the OHRFA and the OCPA protect specific individual consumers against fraud with criminal and civil remedies for those individual victims. "The Court will not expand our public policy exceptions to include protection from economic harm. Without a clear mandate from the Legislature, the Acts do not qualify as an established public policy." View "Booth v. Home Depot, U.S.A." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellees Ronda Owens, Darryl Hubbard, Selena Freymiller, Shanika Crowley, Valerie Killman, Michael Lee Pitts, Ebony Warrior, John Ball, Michelle Bullock, Logan Bellew, Sondia Bell, Tumeeka Baker, and Jay Reid (collectively "Citizens") filed the underlying lawsuit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. Citizens claimed that Oklahoma Governor J. Kevin Stitt and Defendant-appellant Shelley Zumwalt, in her official capacity as Executive Director of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, acted without authority and violated 40 O.S.2011 section 4-313 of the Oklahoma Employment Security Act by terminating agreements with the U.S. Department of Labor to administer COVID-related unemployment programs. The trial court entered a preliminary injunction ordering Zumwalt to immediately reinstate and administer the programs. Zumwalt appealed, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court stayed the trial court's order pending appeal. The Supreme Court found 40 O.S. 4-313 did not create a private right of action and, therefore, the trial court abused its discretion by granting a preliminary injunction. View "Owens, et al. v. Zumwalt" on Justia Law

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Li Meng ("Tenant") leased a commercial property from the Plaintiffs, Mohammad Rahimi and Tahereh Dinpajooh ("Landlords") in August, 2019 for the sole purpose of operating a massage business for a two year term. The parties specifically agreed in the written lease that Tenant use of the commercial space was for the sole purpose of conducting a massage business and Tenant was prohibited from using the space for any other purpose. The Landlords prohibited any use of the leased premises which could endanger life. The Landlords noted that even though Tenant was prohibited from any use of the premises which violated public law or governmental rule, the lease specified there would be no abatement of rent even if there was a loss of business arising from some future law. Landlords argued that Tenant's obligation to pay rent was not excused because of these lease provisions. In January, 2020, approximately five months after the parties executed the lease, the first case of the COVID-19 virus was reported within the United States and soon thereafter in Oklahoma. In March, the Oklahoma governor declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19 and businesses that were not part of critical infrastructure were ordered to close for a period of time. Tenant stated that she closed the business on March 19, 2020 after she and her sole employee became ill with symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. Tenant did not pay rent after March 2020, and she never re-opened her business. By June 2020, Landlords filed this action against the Tenant for past due rent and eviction. Tenant argued that rent was not due from April through August because performance of the contract had become impossible in light of the public health risk with massage which temporarily excused the payment of rent under the doctrine of frustration of purpose or impracticability. The court stated that the defense of impracticability was not a legitimate excuse for the nonpayment of rent and did not allow Tenant to present any evidence in support of this defense. The trial court awarded Landlords $6,400 in past due rent and granted them possession. The Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed the trial court, finding that the trial court erred when it did not allow Tenant to present evidence in support of the affirmative defense. View "Meng v. Rahimi" 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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Ikia Pope and Brandi Powell were in a motor vehicle collision. Pope left the scene of the collision. Powell alleged Pope drove a vehicle owned by third parties who gave permission for Pope to drive the vehicle. Progressive Direct Insurance Company insured the vehicle driven by Pope. Powell made bodily injury and property damage claims with Progressive Direct Insurance Company (insurer). Powell asserted she was entitled to treble property damages. Progressive sought a declaratory judgment for the purpose of adjudicating whether its insurance policy excluded treble damages pursuant to 47 O.S.2011, section 10-103. Progressive filed a motion for summary judgment, and the court concluded the treble damages provided by 47 O.S. 2011, section 10-103 were punitive in nature, and excluded by a clause excluding punitive damages. Powell appealed the subsequent consent judgment which was based, in part, upon the trial court's adjudication of the treble damages issue. The Oklahoma Supreme Court retained the appeal sua sponte, concurring with the district court that the statutory treble damages in 47 O.S.2011, section 10-103 were punitive in nature, and punitive damages were expressly excluded by the policy. View "Progressive Direct Ins. Co. v. Pope" on Justia Law