Appeals Court Upholds Ruling in Dollar General Termination Suit
The following summaries of state and 10th District court opinions were compiled by Anthony Sammons.
Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals
For the week ended June 6
Robert Olson vs. Lenard Briscoe, Briscoe Oil, Don Garms and Garms Oil, No. 92,786.
In 1979, Mary Hoffman granted an oil and gas lease to Vulcan Energy. The lease had a primary term of one year and was to continue beyond that "as long thereafter as oil or gas, or either of them, is produced from said land by the lessee." The well ceased production in November of 1989. In 1991, Hoffman sued Cimarron Operating Co., alleging that they were operating the well and claimed some right, title, or interest in the Vulcan lease. Hoffman asked the court to cancel the lease, claiming the owners thereof had abandoned the well and that production had ceased. The plaintiff, Robert Olson, and the other 20 different owners were not a party to this case. In July of 1991, Hoffman and Cimarron entered into a settlement agreement with defendant Garms, in which Cimarron agreed to "release all its right, title, and interest in and to the Vulcan lease" and transfer operations to Garms. Hoffman dismissed her lawsuit, and the trial court entered no order canceling the lease. Garms took over operations, until defendant Briscoe offered to take over the well and attempt to re-establish production if Garms could obtain a new lease from Hoffman. Briscoe assumed operations and continued to produce the well up until the time of trial. In this action, Olson sought to recover the value of the oil and gas produced by Briscoe that was attributable to his override and damages for fraud. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Another division of the court reversed the trial court's granting of summary judgment. On remand, the trial court denied Olson's request for a jury trial, and entered judgment for the defendants.
On appeal, Olson argued the trial court erred because it did not allow him to try his fraud theory of recovery to a jury. The court stated that for Olson to recover on a fraud theory, he was required to demonstrate: (1) a material false misrepresentation; (2) made by the defendants with knowledge of its falsity, or recklessly made without knowledge of its truth, and as a positive assertion; (3) with the intention that it be relied upon by another, and (4) reliance thereon by Olson to his injury. Because the evidence admitted at trial established that Olson claimed no misrepresentation by the defendants, the court ruled that the trial court correctly concluded Olson was not entitled to recovery on a fraud theory. In another part of the court's ruling, the court determined Olson's overriding interest was not affected by the 1991 case unless "all" of the working interest owners were parties to the 1991 case. Olson had a right to a portion of the production from the land covered by the Vulcan lease "until the lease is canceled by an action brought against the parties to that lease or their successors."
John Paulson, individually and as the parent, next friend and guardian of Joseph Paulson, a minor child, vs. Richard E. Sternlof, Ph.D., and Diane Willis, Ph.D., No. 94,332.
In 1991, John Paulson was awarded custody of his three-year-old son, Joseph. In 1993, Joseph's mother, Jan Browder, without permission of the father or of the Virginia courts, brought Joseph to her parent's home in Oklahoma apparently fearing that the child was being sexually abused by the father. The mother, with the help of an attorney, determined that an independent professional psychological evaluation of the child would be appropriate. Defendant Willis, the mother's aunt, was contacted for help in identifying a reputable psychologist. Willis recommended Sternlof of Oklahoma City. Sternlof met with Joseph on five different occasions, testified that it was possible that sexual abuse had occurred and recommended further evaluation. …