United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
J. CAUTHRON United States District Judge
before the Court is a Motion to Intervene (Dkt. No. 13) filed
by Domino Transports, Inc. (“Domino”). Plaintiff
Great West Casualty Company (“Great West”) has
responded in opposition (Dkt. No. 14), and Domino has replied
(Dkt. No. 15). Defendants Fast Hall, Inc., and Shannon Fast
have also responded, but do not object to Domino's
requested relief. (See Dkt. No. 21.) The Motion is
now at issue.
action stems from an automobile collision that resulted in
the death of Kasey Jill Morse (“Ms. Morse”). On
October 29, 2018, Ms. Morse was operating her vehicle along
Interstate 40 near MacArthur Boulevard in Oklahoma City,
Oklahoma, when she was struck by a dual-wheel assembly that
had detached from a fuel tank trailer owned and maintained by
Domino. At the time of the accident, the trailer was being
pulled by a freightliner truck operated by Shannon Fast
17, 2019, Ms. Morse's estate (the “Estate”)
filed suit in the District Court of Oklahoma County,
Oklahoma, asserting negligence claims against Domino, Mr.
Fast, and Mr. Fast's company, Fast Haul, Inc.
(collectively, the “Fast Defendants”). See
Morse v. Domino Transports, Inc. et al., No.
CJ-2019-3369 (Okla. Cty. Dist. Ct. filed June 17,
2019). The Estate asserts that Domino and the
Fast Defendants are jointly and severally liable for Ms.
Morse's injuries and subsequent death. (Dkt. No. 13-1 p.
time of the accident, Fast Haul, Inc., was insured pursuant
to a commercial lines policy issued by Great West (the
“Policy”). (Dkt. No. 1, at ¶ 9.) On August
23, 2019, Great West filed the instant lawsuit seeking a
declaration that there is no coverage under the Policy and,
as such, it is not obligated to defend or indemnify the Fast
Defendants against the Estate's claims. See id.
at ¶¶ 17-19. In the motion under review, Domino
seeks to intervene, contending that a determination regarding
coverage under the Policy “will affect . . . its
defense and any legal and financial responsibility it might
have” in the state court action. (Dkt. No. 13, p. 2.)
Intervention as of Right
24(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
“provides for intervention as of right by anyone who in
a timely motion ‘claims an interest relating to the
property or transaction that is the subject of the action,
and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a
practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to
protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately
represent that interest.'” WildEarth Guardians
v. U.S. Forest Serv., 573 F.3d 992, 995 (10th Cir. 2009)
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(a)(2)). Since Great West
does not contest the timeliness of Domino's Motion, the
Court presumes timeliness and proceeds to examine whether
Domino has identified an interest that, as a practical
matter, may be impaired by the disposition of this
litigation. Finding that Domino has not carried its burden,
the Court deems it unnecessary to consider the adequacy of
representation by existing parties.
impaired-interest requirement “is primarily a practical
guide to disposing of lawsuits by involving as many
apparently concerned persons as is compatible with efficiency
and due process.” San Juan Cty., Utah v. United
States, 503 F.3d 1163, 1196 (10th Cir. 2007) (en banc)
(abrogated on other grounds by Western Energy Alliance v.
Zinke, 877 F.3d 1157 (10th Cir. 2017) (citations and
internal quotation marks omitted) . The Tenth Circuit follows
a “somewhat liberal line in allowing
intervention.” WildEarth Guardians, 573 F.3d
at 995 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The
movant's burden is “minimal” and is satisfied
by a showing “that impairment of its substantial legal
interest is possible if intervention is denied.”
Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
There is no “rigid formula” for determining
whether a proffered interest justifies intervention. San
Juan Cty., 503 F.3d at 1199. Rather, courts must
exercise “practical judgment, ” considering
“the strength of the interest and the potential risk of
injury to that interest, ” as well as “the
language and purpose of the Rule.” Id.
submits that it has an interest in this lawsuit because
“should there be a determination that [the Fast
Defendants] have no insurance . . . then Domino Transports
will have the sole burden of defending the underlying case
and . . . satisfy[ing] a[ny] judgment” in favor of the
Estate. (Dkt. No. 13, p. 4.) As set forth below,
the Court concludes that Domino has not satisfied its burden
to show potential impairment of a “substantial legal
interest.” WildEarth Guardians, 573 F.3d at
initial matter, the 2011 amendments to Oklahoma's
joint-liability statute have extinguished the doctrine of
joint and several liability in “civil action[s] based
on fault and not arising out of contract . . . .” Okla.
Stat tit. 23, § 15(A). In such cases, “the
liability for damages caused by two or more persons” is
now “several only, ” making “a joint
tortfeasor . . . liable only for the amount of damages
allocated to that tortfeasor.” Okla. Stat tit. 23,
§ 15(A). Accordingly, there is no merit in Domino's
assertion that it may be forced “to answer in damages
for negligence . . . attribute[d] to Fast and Fast
Hall.” (Dkt. No. 13, p. 3); see Loos v.
Saint-Gobain Abrasives, Inc., No. CIV-15-411-R, 2016 WL
5017335, at *6 (W.D. Okla. Sept. 19, 2016) (rejecting
defendant's argument that “it could be forced to
pay for more than its proportionate share of liability if it
[was] found negligent” in light of the 2011 amendment
to Oklahoma's joint-liability statute).
remains is Domino's argument that an adjudication of no
coverage will leave it with “the sole burden of
defending the underlying case.” (Dkt. No. 13, p. 4.)
Domino has not, however, established a “substantial
legal interest” in sharing defense costs with its
codefendants in the state court action. While Domino might
stand to benefit-financially or otherwise-from Great
West's participation in that lawsuit, any claimed legal
interest in its participation is “too indirect”
and “hardly substantial.” WildEarth
Guardians, 573 F.3d at 995 (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted) (emphasis omitted).
rate, Domino makes no attempt to demonstrate that the Fast
Defendants lack the financial resources to contribute to a
defense against the Estate's claims and/or are not
sufficiently motivated to do so. See Trinity Univ. Ins.
Co. v. Turner Funeral Home, No. 1:02-CV-231, 2003 WL
25269317, at *7 (E.D. Tenn. Sept. 18, 2003) (holding that
tort victims failed to establish a right to intervene in a
declaratory-judgment action by their tortfeasor's insurer
insofar as the tortfeasor was “not alleged to lack
sufficient assets ...