Litigation

Litigation

Doerner commercial litigators represent Oklahoma, regional and national business clients as defendants and plaintiffs in crucial disputes. Our litigation practice is as diverse as the business interests of our clients, and has a special focus on issues of statewide importance. For example, we do extensive work on controversies in the oil and gas sector, represent Native American tribes in state and federal court as well as in their own tribal courts, represent numerous municipalities in employment and water issues, and have considerable experience resolving trust disputes and other banking-related controversies. 

For the brokerage industry itself, we defend firms and registered professionals under investigation or charged with a violation by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), or state securities regulators. Broker/dealers and registered representative of broker/dealer firms depend on Doerner’s securities professionals to answer allegations by a customer or a state or federal regulatory body of violating trade practices. 

Many of these disputes settle short of trial, but our lawyers’ decades-long track record appearing in court gives us a distinct advantage against litigators who have never actually tried a case.   We never accept a case that we would be unwilling to take before judges and juries.

This courtroom experience enables our lawyers to better evaluate the odds of success at trial, and often to develop a practical resolution strategy.  Trial experience is what gives us the ability to advise clients on whether to avoid, commence, settle, try or mediate a dispute.

Building on this foundation of experience, the hallmarks of our litigation practice are service and ethics.  Our partners are directly involved in every case, working with select younger lawyers who have both top-notch credentials and practical skills. Because we treat opposing parties and counsel with civility and fairness, Doerner lawyers receive the utmost respect in courts statewide.  It’s a combination that gives our clients instant credibility in every venue.

In any of our areas of practice, clients know that we will take the time to understand their needs and listen to their concerns. We understand business realities and give clients honest, clear guidance on whether to try or settle a case. The result is the kind of strong working relationships that have kept many clients with us for decades, as they grow and their needs become more complex.

Recent Doerner Experience

  • Provided clients with administrative agency representation before such bodies as the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Oklahoma Human Rights Commission, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
  • Represented and defended businesses and organizations in the complex disciplines of appellate and class action litigation.
  • Handled oil and gas litigation involving royalty owner and operating agreement disputes, title controversies, natural gas contract and processing lawsuits.
  • Obtained a published decision setting aside, on the basis of an Open Meetings Act violation, a wholesale water contract that was contrary to our client’s interests.
  • Defended a managed healthcare company in claims ranging from breach of contract to negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, bad faith and fraud.
  • Resolved commercial disputes focused on contractual claims involving everything from construction project change orders to confidentiality agreements to business partnership agreements.
  • Served as lead counsel in a civil action originating the Northern District of Oklahoma for foreclosure of a bank's loan with business interests and ancillary actions in the United Kingdom and the British Virgin Islands.

Top Areas of Focus

  • Representation of all key parties to bankruptcy in bankruptcy courts throughout Oklahoma and in numerous jurisdictions around the country.
  • Resolution of construction claims and liens through mediation, arbitration and litigation.
  • Defense of employers in such matters as wage-and-hour conflicts, retaliation claims, disability accommodations and OSHA citations.
  • Appellate practice before the Oklahoma Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Oklahoma, as well as the federal circuit courts and US Supreme Court.
  • Handling marital and custody disputes through litigation and mediation.
  • Securing and defending groundwater rights, including water allocation and replacement.
  • Assistance with resolving inter- and intra-tribal disputes and administration of court systems for Native American tribes.
  • Defense of news media outlets and reporters against claims of libel, slander, defamation and invasion of privacy.
  • Defense against allegations of sales practice violations, Ponzi schemes, insider trading, net capital violations and market manipulation.

Case Study:  Prosecuting Easement and Breach of Contract Claims against the Department of Transportation for the Costs of Relocating and Constructing a portion of an Interstate Natural Gas Transmission Line.

  • Background:  Our client was a federally regulated interstate natural gas pipeline company with over 6,500 miles of transmission lines, including significant lines in the state of Florida.  A large part of the Florida lines were located on an easement negotiated with the Florida Turnpike Authority in the 1950s.  Over the years following installation of the original transmission lines Florida experienced significant population growth leading to an equally significant upgrade of transportation infrastructure.  One of those upgrades was the continuing widening of the turnpike to accommodate more and more traffic.  Eventually the widening began to interfere with pipeline operations resulting in the need to relocate approximately eleven miles of pipeline in a populous area of Broward County.
  • The Claims:  Our client brought an action against the Florida Department of Transportation seeking reimbursement of the substantial costs of moving its pipeline from where it had been located for decades to a new location at the edge of the Turnpike right of way.  Construction conditions in the new area were difficult and required use of expensive and non-typical construction techniques.  The company incurred over $120 million dollars in relocation costs in the course of a several year relocation project.  The FDOT declined to reimburse the costs and a suit was brought seeking the cost of relocating the pipeline less the value of having a new pipeline installed.
  • The Outcome:  After completion of significant discovery, including discovery of construction cost claims exceeding $120 million, the case was tried to a jury for almost a month.  The complicated damages case was presented with a mix of knowledgeable company witnesses and outside auditors.  The jury found that the FDOT had breached an agreement requiring reimbursement and that the damages were $82,697,567, the entire amount requested by our client.  After the judgment was affirmed on appeal, the judgment was satisfied by a payment from the FDOT exceeding $100 million.

Case Study:  Defending Claims for Breach of a Stock Purchase Agreement and Associated Employment Agreement related to the Sale of an Insurance Managing General Agency and a Third Party Administrator.

  • Background:  Our client was a large national group of insurance companies.  It purchased an Oklahoma based third party administrator and managing general agency for an amount that included a four year earn out that could have made the total purchase price exceed $44 million.  The third party administrator was engaged in administering complex casualty and excess workers compensation claims.  The managing general agency specialized in hard to place coverages as well as excess workers compensation.
  • The Claims:  One of the selling shareholders brought an action against our client claiming that it had breached the stock purchase agreement and his employment agreement by interfering with the ability to meet the earnings targets that would support the $44 million payout.  The claims included related tort claims for constructive discharge, tortious breach of contract, and breach of the duty of good faith.
  • The Outcome:  After completion of discovery we moved for summary judgment on behalf of our client.  Shortly before trial the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma granted summary judgment finding in favor of our client’s interpretation of the contract documents and finding that there was no legal basis for the other claims asserted.

Case Study:  Defending Claims for Cancellation of Gas Storage Agreements

  • Background:  Our client operated a large gas storage field in Western Oklahoma as part of a business engaged in the interstate transmission of natural gas.   The field was regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The field was originally developed in the 1970s under agreements that allowed both the right to store gas and the right to develop minerals.  The storage field is held by a large number of lease agreements with a large number of land owners.  The leases protect the field from incursion by drilling so that gas can be injected into the formation and stored for sale in interstate commerce.
  • The Claims:  Upon expiration of the 20 year primary term of the lease agreements, a number of plaintiffs brought claims alleging that the storage leases had expired because our client had not successfully drilled for oil and gas under the oil and gas lease portion of the agreements.  They asked the court to declare that the right to use the storage formation had expired.
  • The Outcome:  After completion of discovery and exchange of expert reports we moved for summary judgment on behalf of our client.  The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma granted summary judgment finding in favor of our client’s interpretation of the gas storage agreements and holding that the storage field remained protected in all formations covered by the original contract.

Case Study:  Securing Dismissal of a Class Action

  • Opportunity: Our client, one of the world’s largest logistics companies, was sued in Oklahoma federal district court by a plaintiff that claimed, on its own behalf and on behalf of shippers nationwide, that our client tied its sales of transportation services on parcels valued at less than $100 to the sale of insurance for those parcels.
  • Solution: We contended that its promise to reimburse the value of lost packages under $100 was not insurance, but was limitation of liability under the Carmack Amendment, the federal statute controlling and limiting the liability of contract carriers. We also demonstrated that the client’s agreement to pay for loss and its agreement to ship were not separate products and could not be subject to tying arrangements. 
  • Result: The court accepted our arguments in full and dismissed the case against our client.

Take Action

In today’s adversarial society, lawsuits are inevitable for businesses of any size.  As a plaintiff or a defendant, companies want a litigation firm that deeply understands their interests and knows how to achieve them.  Doerner trial and appellate lawyers give our clients the dispute resolution counsel they need while respecting their time, intelligence and money.  Although we are experienced trial lawyers, we believe the true standard of an effective commercial litigation practice is total commitment to finding the best and most effective resolution to a client’s business disputes.  

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Rebecca D. Bullard

Rebecca D. Bullard

Rebecca represents clients primarily in labor and employment litigation and counsels clients regarding everyday employment matters. 

Oklahoma Employer's Law Blog

 


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