United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
STEADFAST INSURANCE COMPANY, a subsidiary of ZURICH HOLDING COMPANY OF AMERICA, INC., Plaintiff,
EAGLE ROAD OIL LLC; CUMMINGS OIL COMPANY; TERRITORY RESOURCES, LLC; ENERVEST OPERATING, LLC; PETRO WARRIOR, LLC; PETROQUEST ENERGY, LLC; and TRINITY OPERATING USG, LLC, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
GREGORY K. FRIZZELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the court are three motions: the Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 46]
of defendant Trinity Operating (USG), LLC; the Motion to
Dismiss [Doc. 49] of defendant Territory Resources, LLC; and
the Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 55] of defendant Petro Warrior,
LLC. The moving defendants seek dismissal of plaintiff's
claims based on, among other grounds, the rule against claim
splitting. For the reasons set forth below, the motions are
granted. For the same reasons, the court also dismisses,
sua sponte, plaintiff's claims against the
Allegations in the Complaint
to the Complaint [Doc. 2], plaintiff Steadfast Insurance
Company (“Steadfast”) had an insurance agreement
with the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma (the
“Nation”). Steadfast alleges that defendants'
disposal of fracking wastewater into Oklahoma's Arbuckle
Limestone Formation caused earthquakes, which, in turn,
“caused the Nation to suffer more than $400, 000.00 in
physical and market value damages to its historical
government buildings.” [Id. ¶ 40].
Steadfast asserts claims for absolute liability, negligence,
trespass, and nuisance. It seeks “to enforce its rights
of subrogation” and to recover $324, 269.98 that it
paid the Nation pursuant to the terms of the insurance
agreement. [Id. ¶ 5].
three months before Steadfast commenced this lawsuit, the
Nation commenced, in this district, a related lawsuit
captioned Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma v. Eagle Road Oil
LLC, et al., No. 4:18-cv-263-JED-JFJ. The attorneys
representing the Nation in that lawsuit also represent
Steadfast in this lawsuit, and the Nation's allegations
in that lawsuit largely mirror Steadfast's allegations in
this lawsuit. The Nation asserts the same causes of action
against the same defendants and seeks to recover the same
damages. Specifically, the Nation alleges that the same
earthquakes “caused the Nation to suffer more than
$400, 000.00 in physical and market value damages to its
historical government buildings.” [SAC ¶ 40].
Rule against Claim Splitting
Oklahoma law, “a single tort or wrong to a single
person gives rise to but a single action however numerous the
items of damage resulting from the single wrong or tort may
be.” Lowder v. Oklahoma Farm Bureau Mut. Ins.
Co., 436 P.2d 654, 657 (Okla. 1967). Oklahoma courts
recognize that a “defendant has a right to be proceeded
against in a single action by any injured party for his
single wrong or tort, ” as opposed to being
“subjected to defense of multiple actions arising from
his single wrong or tort upon separate or separable items of
damage arising from that single wrong or tort for which he
has but a single liability.” Id. at 658.
“To avoid multiple and potentially vexatious lawsuits
against the defendant liable for such a single wrong, the law
proscribes ‘splitting' of such a single cause of
action or claim.” Muskogee Title Co. v. First Nat.
Bank & Tr. Co. of Muskogee, 894 P.2d 1148, 1150
(Okla.Civ.App. 1995) (citing Lowder, 436 P.2d at
insurer establishes a claim as subrogee, Oklahoma courts say
that the subrogated insurer “steps into the shoes of
the plaintiff.” State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v.
Payne, 408 P.3d 204, 208 (Okla. 2017). The subrogated
insurer brings the same cause of action as the insured, to
recover damages arising from the same injuries as the
insured; in short, the subrogated insurer maintains a suit in
its own name to redress wrongs done to its insured.
Id. The insurer takes the claim of the insured
subject to all legal and equitable defenses that the
tortfeasor may have against the insured and acquires no
rights greater than those of the insured. Id.
“The right of subrogation is not a matter of strict
right, but is designed to promote and to accomplish
justice.” Lowder, 436 P.2d at 657. Thus,
“it will not be allowed where the legal and equitable
rights of others are defeated.” Id.
Muskogee Title, the Oklahoma Court of Appeals
summarized the law regarding the rule against claim splitting