Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Zurich American Insurance Co. v. Good To Go, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

August 22, 2019

ZURICH AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
GOOD TO GO, LLC d/b/a VISTA MEDICAL CENTER, et al., Defendants. and GOOD TO GO, LLC d/b/a VISTA MEDICAL CENTER and PATRICK REYNOLDS, Plaintiffs
v.
CONTINENTAL CASUALTY COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          STEPHEN P. FRIOT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         At an earlier stage, the court held that attorney Rex Travis is entitled to an equitable lien on state-court settlement proceeds which are payable to state-court plaintiffs or to the state-court plaintiffs' attorneys, by which lien Travis may recover a fee for services he rendered in this federal action to his clients, Good to Go, LLC d/b/a Vista Medical Center, and Patrick Reynolds. Doc. no. 172. (Good To Go and Reynolds are Travis's clients in this federal action only. Travis did not represent these parties in any of the underlying state-court tort actions brought by state-court plaintiffs against Good to Go and Reynolds.) The court resolved the equitable lien issues in favor of Travis, having found (among other things) that the legal services Travis rendered in this federal action benefitted the state-court plaintiffs and their state-court attorneys in achieving settlements of the state-court actions. Id. at p. 7, ¶3 (“Travis's work benefitted the state-court plaintiffs and their state-court attorneys.”).

         Three motions are now before the court. The motions are filed by state-court plaintiffs, each of whom is also a party in this federal action. The motions are doc. nos. 176 (Pretzer and Martin[1]), 183 (Adams, Carista, Curnett, Green, Johnson, Broadbooks) and 187 (Livsey, DeGiusti). Travis responded in a consolidated brief, objecting to relief. Doc. no. 191. Movants filed reply briefs. Doc. nos. 192, 193, 194. Although the motions use different formats, they seek the same result --extinguishment (or a bar) of Travis's equitable lien on the state-court settlement proceeds.

         The motions will be denied for the reasons stated below.

         Discussion

         All three motions set out factual and legal propositions in support of dispositive relief (extinguishment of Travis's equitable lien), based on a document entitled “Settlement Agreement and Release of All Claims.” One of the motions is entitled a motion for summary judgment. The other two motions ask the court to enforce a settlement agreement. In these circumstances it is appropriate to treat all three of the motions as summary judgment motions, and the court will do so.

         Under Rule 56, Fed. R. Civ. P., summary judgment shall be granted if the movant shows there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists when “there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of a material fact exists, the evidence is to be taken in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970). All reasonable inferences to be drawn from the undisputed facts are to be determined in a light most favorable to the non-movant. United States v. Agri Services, Inc., 81 F.3d 1002, 1005 (10th Cir. 1996). Once the moving party has met its burden, the opposing party must come forward with specific evidence, not mere allegations or denials, demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial. Posey v. Skyline Corp., 702 F.2d 102, 105 (7th Cir. 1983).

         As already stated, movants argue that Travis's equitable lien is extinguished by a provision found in a document entitled “Settlement Agreement and Release of All Claims” (hereafter, the agreement). Each of the moving parties has submitted a copy of this document, signed by the movant. The terms of these agreements are essentially the same. Accordingly, the court will refer to “the agreement, ” in the singular.

         The provision relied on by the movants states as follows (footnotes added by the court).

RELEASORS [2] AND RELEASED PARTIES[3] shall bear their own attorneys' fees and costs incurred in the litigation and through the execution of this AGREEMENT.

See, e.g., doc. no. 176-1, p. 6 of 8 (agreement signed by Pretzer). Movants argue that by this provision, Good to Go and Reynolds and their representatives, as released parties, gave up any claim which Travis, as their representative in this federal action, might otherwise have to an equitable lien on the state-court settlement proceeds. The court rejects this argument.

         First, in their effort to bind Travis, movants rely on specific, written, contractual language purportedly agreed to by Good to Go and Reynolds. Yet movants present no evidence which shows that Good to Go and Reynolds signed the agreement or otherwise agreed to its terms or to the specific provision in question. Travis has not raised this issue and the court does not make too much of this missing link in the chain of evidence, nor does the court deny the motions on this ground. The court simply notes that if it were inclined to grant the motions (which it is not, for the reasons set out below), the court would be required to infer, based on other undisputed matters, [4] that Good to Go and Reynolds did, in fact, agree to the provision relied on by the movants.[5]

         Second, the relied-upon language may be ambiguous with respect to whether it covers fees for services rendered to Good to Go and Reynolds in this federal litigation (as opposed to fees for services rendered to these parties in the state-court actions).

         The agreement states that the released parties “shall bear their own attorneys' fees and costs incurred in the litigation ….” But “the litigation” is not a defined term.[6] If Travis had raised this issue (he did not), movants presumably would have responded that the agreement was drafted by counsel for Good to Go and Reynolds in the state-court action, so that “fees … incurred in the litigation” should be construed against the drafters, to include fees for services rendered by Travis on behalf of Good to Go and Reynolds in this federal litigation.[7] The rule that ambiguous terms are construed against the drafter is, however, based on a presumption that the drafter had the opportunity to choose the terms used in the contract.[8] Here, it is undisputed that Travis had no involvement in drafting the agreement or in any aspect of the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.