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Oklahoma Digital Abstract, LLC v. Imersion Global, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

December 27, 2019

OKLAHOMA DIGITAL ABSTRACT, LLC, an Oklahoma limited liability company, Plaintiff,
v.
IMERSION GLOBAL INCORPORATED., a Texas corporation, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          TERENCE C. KERN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is the Motion to Exclude Certain Opinion Testimony by Defendant Imersion Global Incorporated's Expert Witness Terri Parrish (“Parrish”) (Doc. 39) filed by Plaintiff Oklahoma Digital Abstract, LLC (“ODA”). Defendant Imersion Global Incorporated (“Imersion”) opposes the motion. Doc. 49.

         I. Background

         On October 16, 2013, ODA and Imersion entered into two letter agreements, pursuant to which Imersion was to assist ODA in developing abstract plants in Wagoner County and Rogers County, Oklahoma. Imersion was tasked with, inter alia, taking scanned images of real property records provided by ODA and creating an electronic index of those documents. Plaintiff contracted with CourthouseDirect.com, Inc. (“CourthouseDirect.com”) to use a software platform created by CourthouseDirect.com for hosting the indexes.

         Imersion loaded the Wagoner County index onto the CourthouseDirect.com platform. However, in February 2016, before the Rogers County index could be completed and uploaded to the CourthouseDirect.com platform, control of ODA was transferred to Randy Dittmann. At the time, Dittmann controlled several other Oklahoma abstract plants which utilized a software platform known as halFILE. Dittmann decided that the Rogers County and Wagoner County indexes should use the halFile platform instead of the CourthouseDirect.com platform. Subsequently, Plaintiff ceased all communications with Imersion, and on August 1, 2018, it filed suit against Imersion and its principal, Anil K. Adoni.[1] In its Complaint, ODA asserts that because of high error rates in the electronic index of documents Imersion created, and Imersion's failure to correct those errors, ODA had to hire eData Services, U.S., LLC (“eData”) to complete the services; that eData will have to rekey all of the Rogers County and Wagoner County documents and ensure that the stapling was correct; and that ODA anticipates paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to correct the errors.

         Imersion's expert, Parrish, was tasked with reviewing the sufficiency of the abstract plants Imersion prepared for Wagoner County and Rogers County, and determining whether they appeared to meet the requirements of the Oklahoma Abstractors Board. At the conclusion of her review, Parrish opined (i) that she would have recommended that the Wagoner County database be certified and (ii) that while the Rogers County database was not complete, it “was progressing in a reasonable manner which could have resulted in a process that would have met the qualifications of the rules and laws of the Oklahoma Abstractors Board resulting in the potential for Certificate of Authority being issued.” Doc. 49, Ex. 1, Parrish Letter of August 28, 2019, p. 8.

         ODA challenges Parrish's methodology and conclusions, arguing that she applied an erroneous standard of what search features a digital abstract plant must have to meet the statutory requirements of Oklahoma law.

         The requirements for an abstract plant are set out in 1 O.S. § 21(2), which states:

2. “Abstract plant” shall consist of a set of records in which an entry has been made of all documents or matters which legally impart constructive notice of matters affecting title to real property, any interest therein or encumbrance thereon, which are filed, recorded and currently available for reproduction in the offices of the county clerk and the court clerk in the county for which such abstract plant is maintained. Such records shall consist of:
a. an index in which notations of or references to any documents that describe the property affected are included, according to the property described or in which copies or briefs of all such documents that describe the property affected are sorted and filed according to the property described, which is compiled from the instruments of record affecting real property in the county offices and not copies or reproduced from any county index; and
b. an index or files in which all other documents, pending suits affecting real property and liens, except ad valorem taxes and special assessments, are posted, entered, or otherwise included, according to the name of the parties whose title to real property or any interest therein or encumbrances thereon is affected, which is compiled from the instruments of record affecting real property in the county offices and not copied from any county index.

         Parrish conducted searches to show whether specific documents from Wagoner County could be found on the CourthouseDirect.com database created by Imersion. ODA argues that in Oklahoma “abstracts are always built by searching the legal description for documents that are not identified, ” and “Parrish's methodology (looking on CourthouseDirect.com for identified documents) does not prove her conclusion (that Courthouse Direct can use searches by legal description to retrieve all documents needed to build an abstract).” Id.

         II. ...


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