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Hough Oilfield Service, Inc. v. Newton

Court of Appeals of Oklahoma, Division IV

September 22, 2016

HOUGH OILFIELD SERVICE, INC., d/b/a HOTCO, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
RANDALL NEWTON and LINDA NEWTON, Defendants/Appellees.

          Mandate Issued: 06/06/2017

         APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF PAYNE COUNTY, OKLAHOMA HONORABLE PHILLIP CORLEY, TRIAL JUDGE

          Keith A. Ward, KEITH A. WARD, PLLC, Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Plaintiff/Appellant

          S. Corey Stone, PETTIS & STONE, Shawnee, Oklahoma, for Defendants/Appellees

          JANE P. WISEMAN, PRESIDING JUDGE

         ¶1 Appellant Hough Oilfield Service, Inc., appeals a trial court order dismissing its suit against Appellees Linda Newton and Randall Newton. After review, we affirm the dismissal as to Randall Newton, reverse the dismissal as to Linda Newton, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶2 While employed with Appellant, Linda embezzled company money for personal use. The State of Oklahoma charged her with two counts of embezzlement and one count of forgery. After she pled guilty on all counts, the court sentenced her on June 21, 2013, to a suspended sentence of seven years in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, the first year to be spent under house arrest. The court also ordered her to make restitution in the amount of $175, 787.05.

         ¶3 Appellant filed suit against Appellees on March 21, 2012, alleging Linda embezzled at least $171, 000 [1] and that the monies unjustly enriched Randall Newton. Appellant did not, however, serve any summons on Appellees. [2] In response to a motion to compel discovery, Appellees entered a special appearance and moved to dismiss the suit for failure to serve summons within 180 days as required by statute. On July 3, 2014, the trial court granted the motion and dismissed the case without prejudice deeming the case dismissed as a matter of law on September 18, 2012, the 181st day after Appellant filed suit.

         ¶4 On July 14, 2014, eleven days after the dismissal, Appellant re-filed its suit. Appellees filed a motion to dismiss, alleging the statute of limitations period barred the second action. The trial court noted the case was dismissed as a matter of law on September 18, 2012, and held that because the limitations period had lapsed, the savings statute-- 12 O.S.2011 § 100 --required Appellant to re-file its suit within one year of the deemed dismissal. Appellant had not refiled the action by September 18, 2013, and the trial court held the action was time-barred and dismissed the case with prejudice.

         ¶5 Appellant then filed a motion for new trial contesting the trial court's interpretation of the case law regarding a deemed dismissal date and asserting the trial court should apply the longer limitations period applicable to individuals "incarcerated or under the supervision of a state, federal or local correctional facility." The trial court rejected these arguments and denied the motion for new trial. Appellant now appeals from the dismissal of the second lawsuit.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶6 We are asked to determine the relationship and effect of Oklahoma Statutes Title 12, §§ 2004(I) [3] and 100 regarding an action's deemed dismissal after the 180-day limit for serving summons has passed. "Statutory interpretation, entailing a legal issue, demands a de novo review standard, i.e. a review in which an appellate court has plenary, independent and non-deferential authority to reexamine a trial court's legal rulings." Barnhill v. Multiple Injury Trust Fund,2001 OK 114, ¶ 8, 37 P.3d 890 (footnotes omitted). We must also address whether Appellant's claims are time-barred pursuant to 12 O.S.2011 ยง 95. "Although limitations issues may involve ...


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