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Oklahoma Attorneys Mutual Insurance Co. v. Cox

Court of Appeals of Oklahoma, Division I

April 5, 2019

OKLAHOMA ATTORNEYS MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff/Appellee,
v.
DAVID A. COX, Defendant/Appellant, CHRISTOPHER MANSFIELD; GAYLE BOYLE; SHARON C. HART; KATHRYN R. STEWART; JIM McGOUGH; CATHERINE WELSH, Defendants.

          Mandate Issued: 05/01/2019

          APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF TULSA COUNTY, OKLAHOMA HONORABLE REBECCA NIGHTINGALE, JUDGE

          Andrew C. Jayne, Emily C. Krukowski, BAUM GLASS JAYNE & CARWILE, Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Plaintiff/Appellee,

          Ronald E. Durbin, John E. Rooney, Jr., DURBIN LAW FIRM, PLLC, Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Defendant/Appellant David Cox.

          Sean P. Downes, DOWNS LAW OFFICE, Sapulpa, Oklahoma, for Defendant Christopher Mansfield.

          Johnny P. Akers, Frederick S. Esser, LAW CENTER OF AKERS & ESSER, PLLC, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, for Defendants Gayle Boyle, Sharon C. Hart, and Kathryn R. Stewart.

          Stephen L. Andrews, Renee Williams, ANDREW & Williams, P.C., Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Defendants Jim McGough and Catherine Welsh.

          Kenneth L. Buettner, Judge

         ¶1 This appeal arises from a declaratory action by Plaintiff/Appellee Oklahoma Attorneys Mutual Insurance Company (Insurer) against a former attorney, Defendant Christopher Mansfield (Mansfield), and some of his former clients (collectively "Defendants"), including Defendant/Appellant David A. Cox (Cox). Insurer sought a declaratory judgment stating it was not obligated to defend or cover Mansfield in certain civil suits brought by Cox and other Defendants because Mansfield's conduct giving rise to Defendants' claims was excluded from coverage under the "crime/fraud exclusion" in the policy. Insurer moved for summary judgment. Finding no factual dispute, the trial court granted Insurer's motion. Cox appeals. Because Mansfield's conduct giving rise to Defendants' claims was excluded under the terms of the policy, we hold that Insurer was entitled to judgment as a matter of law and affirm.

         ¶2 Mansfield was previously licensed as an attorney in the state of Oklahoma. As such, Mansfield regularly received court appointments in probate, adoption, and guardianship matters. In 2009, a court appointed Mansfield as Special Administrator of the estate of Elizabeth S. Cox (the Cox Estate), to which Cox was an heir. In 2010, the same court appointed Mansfield as Personal Representative of the Cox Estate. On January 16, 2014, the Oklahoma Bar Association filed a complaint against Mansfield, alleging misconduct by Mansfield with regard to his management of the Cox Estate. Adopting the recommendation of the Professional Responsibility Tribunal, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma found that Mansfield violated the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct by diverting funds from the Cox Estate without authorization. The Oklahoma Supreme Court suspended Mansfield from the practice of law for eighteen (18) months starting April 13, 2015.

         ¶3 After the suspension of his law license for his mismanagement of the Cox Estate, Mansfield was accused of similar misconduct regarding other estates. [1] Mansfield entered into agreed judgments in at least five disputes regarding these other estates, totaling in excess of $1 million in judgments against him. The Supreme Court accepted Mansfield's resignation from the Oklahoma Bar January 1, 2016.

         ¶4 In addition to the professional misconduct proceedings, the United States brought criminal charges against Mansfield for his conduct in managing one of the estates, alleging bank fraud and unlawful monetary transaction. United States v. Mansfield, No. 4:16-CR-00114-1-GKF (N.D. Okla. March 16, 2017). In response to the charges, Mansfield pleaded guilty and agreed to a forty-one-month prison sentence. Mansfield also agreed to pay approximately $400, 000 in restitution to the victim estate, as well as another $131, 000 in restitution to other allegedly victimized estates--including the Cox Estate. A criminal judgment was entered against Mansfield March 16, 2017.

         ¶5 Cox filed suit against Mansfield September 12, 2014, alleging negligence, gross negligence, breach of duty by personal representative, deceit/fraud, unjust enrichment, and seeking punitive damages. Cox v. Mansfield, No. CJ-2014-3523 (Tulsa Cty. Dist. Ct. filed Sept. 12, 2014) [hereinafter the Cox suit]. The Cox suit is ongoing. The other Defendants filed suit against Mansfield August 4, 2017, alleging breach of fiduciary duty/legal malpractice and negligence, and claiming respondeat superior on the part of Mansfield's employer. McGough v. Mansfield, Case, No. CJ-2017-3072 (Tulsa Cty. Dist. Ct., default judgment granted November 13, 2018) [hereinafter the McGough suit]. The trial court granted default judgment against Mansfield in the McGough suit November 13, 2018. [2]

         ¶6 Prior to the allegations of misconduct Mansfield had purchased a "Lawyers Professional Liability Claims-Made Policy" from Insurer for the period of July 13, 2013 to July 13, 2014 (Policy 1). Policy 1 was canceled when Mansfield's law license was suspended. Mansfield then purchased a "Three Year Extended Reporting Endorsement" beginning June 1, 2015 (Policy 2). Insurer was notified of the Cox suit during Policy 1, ...


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