Court Reverses, Remands Ruling in Vastar Resources Lawsuit

Article excerpt

Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals

For week ended May 1.

Multiple Injury Trust Fund, vs. Connie Young and the Workers Compensation Court, No. 95,378.

In 1986, Connie Young suffered a compensable on-the-job injury and the Workers Compensation Court awarded benefits for 12.5 percent permanent partial disability (PPD). In 1991, she suffered another on- the-job injury and the Workers Compensation Court awarded benefits of 15.67 percent. In 1994, the Workers' Compensation Court granted benefits against the Multiple Injury Trust Fund for 6 percent PPD representing a material increase in disability due to the combined effect of the previously adjudicated disabilities and the disabilities attributable to the latest injury. In March 1998, she suffered another compensable injury to her back. She settled her claim with her employer for slightly less than 20 percent PPD. The trial court awarded benefits against Multiple Injury Trust Fund, which appealed.

The court sustained the trial court's order.

Alice B. Davis, vs. Board of Regents for Oklahoma State University and the Agricultural and Mechanical Colleges, No. 93,878.

The trial court granted Defendants' motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff appealed.

The court ruled there was no public policy tort claim, because the essential element to the claim, actual termination of the employer-employee relationship, did not exist. Because Plaintiff did not initiate her action until well over a year later, the court ruled that there was no actionable defamation claim. Plaintiff argued that her due process rights were violated because she was deprived of her protected liberty and property interest without a meaningful opportunity to be heard. The court dismissed this argument, ruling that since Plaintiff filed suit against a political subdivision, she was bound by the provisions of the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act, 51 O.S. 1991, Section 151 et seq., which she failed to follow.

Bertha Z. Dorn, vs. Heritage Trust Co., No. 93,448.

On July 2, 1999, the trial court filed a Decree of Divorce for Bertha Z. Dorn and Ralph H. Dorn. The trial court ordered real estate in the Bricktown area of Oklahoma City sold, with the net proceeds to be divided equally. Both parties appealed the trial court's decision.

On appeal, Bertha Dorn argued that the jointly acquired property she and her husband transferred to her revocable trust by quitclaim deed became her separate property and was not subject to equitable division. The court disagreed, stating that the transfer occurred while the parties were still married. Based on this, the court ruled that the trial court's decision was not against the clear weight of the evidence. Ralph Dorn also appealed the trial court's decree, arguing that the trial court erred by determining that her disability income, which she received as a benefit under insurance policies purchased with marital funds, was her separate property. The court ruled that disability benefits replace separate property and thus, the trial court was correct in determining that her disability income was her separate property.

State of Oklahoma, ex rel. Commissioners of the Land Office, vs. Rex Allen Bruce and Sally Bruce, No. 95, 325.

The trial court denied State's attempt to quiet title, and quieted title to the abandoned property in the remaining defendants. State appealed.

On appeal, the court first noted the "trust" nature of lands reserved to the State for use by the schools. The courts in Williams v. Sowards, 219 P.2d 1005 (Okla. 1950), Missouri-Kansas- Texas R. Co. v. Ray, 177 F.2d 454 (10th Cir. 1949), and Territory v. Choctaw, O. & W. Ry. Co., 95 P. 420 (Okla. 1908) uniformly held that by territorial condemnation proceedings, a railroad obtained only an easement, not fee title, to land occupied for railroad purposes, and that accordingly, grantees from the railroad obtained no "absolute or fee simple estate in said property by reason of their claim of title derived from the condemnation proceedings under the territorial statutes. …