Public Service Co. of Oklahoma v. B. Willis, C.P.A., Inc., 83358

CourtSupreme Court of Oklahoma
Citation941 P.2d 995,1997 OK 78
Docket NumberNo. 83358,83358
PartiesPUBLIC SERVICE COMPANY OF OKLAHOMA, an Oklahoma corporation, Appellee, v. B. WILLIS, C.P.A., INC., Appellant.
Decision Date24 June 1997

Page 995

941 P.2d 995
1997 OK 78
PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANY OF OKLAHOMA, an Oklahoma corporation, Appellee,
B. WILLIS, C.P.A., INC., Appellant.
No. 83358.
Supreme Court of Oklahoma.
June 24, 1997.

Stratton Taylor, Daphne A. Burns, Carle, Higgins, Mosier & Taylor, Claremore, Kevin Coutant, Doerner, Stuart, Saunders, Daniel, Anderson & Biolchini, Tulsa, for Appellee.

William T. Dickson Tulsa, for Appellant.

SIMMS, Justice:

¶1 Certiorari was granted in this eminent domain proceeding to consider a landowner's contention that his constitutional and statutory rights were violated as he was denied any meaningful opportunity for a hearing before Public Service Company was allowed to exercise its asserted right to condemn and take possession of his land. We agree. We vacate the decision of the Court of Civil Appeals, reverse the trial court and remand for further proceedings.

¶2 Public Service Company (PSO) commenced this condemnation proceeding to acquire an easement across property owned by Willis (or landowner), for the purpose of building a thirteen mile railroad spur to transport coal to its Oologah power plant. In its petition, PSO alleged that it is a public service corporation duly authorized under 66 O.S.1991 §§ 51-60 and 27 O.S.1991 § 7, to exercise the power of eminent domain, that its acquisition of Willis' property is necessary for a proper purpose and that its efforts to secure the right-of-way by private purchase had been unsuccessful.

¶3 Commissioners were appointed and filed their report pursuant to 66 O.S.1991, § 53. Willis filed exceptions to the commissioners' report under 66 O.S.1991, § 55, and alleged that the proposed taking of his property was not for a public use or reasonably necessary therefor and demanded a jury trial. Additionally, Willis served PSO with requests for discovery to gather evidence in support of his assertions in an effort to defeat the proposed taking. Among those discovery requests was a request for production of documents which encompassed any resolution of necessity adopted by the Board of Directors of PSO declaring the necessity for acquiring Willis' land for a public use, and a request for all information regarding economic studies, contracts, analyses, and negotiations regarding the project. PSO refused to produce most of the documents including those specified, and Willis subsequently filed a motion to compel discovery.

¶4 At a pretrial hearing, the trial court announced that it would grant PSO's request to hear all pending motions and objections including both the landowner's motion to compel discovery and his exceptions to the commissioner's report. Willis objected that the matter was premature for the trial court's determination at that time. He argued that his reason for filing the motion to compel was to obtain relevant evidence to present at a proper trial on his exceptions to the report so that he could support his defense that the proposed taking was neither for public use nor necessary therefor. He argued that PSO had failed to carry its initial burden of proof as to its right to condemn his property because it had not presented any evidence in support of the allegations of its petition. Willis submitted that in the absence of introducing a resolution by its Board of Directors declaring the necessity of taking his property for a public use, the utility did not present a prima facie case and was not entitled to prevail on its petition.

¶5 PSO contended that discovery for the landowner was irrelevant. It argued that because it had a legislative grant to condemn property pursuant to 27 O.S.1991 § 7, Willis had no right to contest its taking of his land. The trial court held in favor of PSO and overruled both Willis' motion to compel discovery and his exceptions to the commissioners' report. The court ruled that PSO was not required to file a resolution of necessity with its petition and held further that a

Page 998

simple allegation of necessity in the petition was sufficient to sustain PSO's case. For this determination, the court relied on its interpretation of the holding in McCrady v. Western Farmers Elec. Cooperative, 323 P.2d 356 (Okl.1958). The trial court also found that in the event a resolution of necessity were required, the issue had become moot because subsequent to the pretrial hearing, PSO had submitted a supplemental brief and attached thereto a certified copy of a resolution of necessity asserted to have been adopted by its Board of Directors.

¶6 Willis appealed. He argued that by allowing PSO to seize his property for a purported but disputed necessary public use without granting him an adversary hearing on his challenge to the taking, the district court had ignored his constitutional and statutory rights as well as those protected by clear and well-developed Oklahoma case law. Willis contended that the trial court committed error by denying him the right to conduct relevant discovery and holding that a mere unsubstantiated allegation in a petition, unsupported by any evidence whatsoever, was...

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23 cases
  • Vaughn v. City of Muskogee, 111,065.
    • United States
    • United States State Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma. Court of Civil Appeals of Oklahoma
    • February 10, 2015
    ...court on the taking issue “will not be disturbed on appeal where there is evidence to support such findings.” Pub. Serv. Co. of Okla. v. B. Willis, C.P.A., Inc., 1997 OK 78, ¶ 18, 941 P.2d 995, 1000. Accord Lamar Advertising, 2014 OK 47, ¶ 8, 335 P.3d at 774 (findings by the trier of fact i......
  • State ex rel. Dept. of Transp. v. Mehta, 101,226.
    • United States
    • United States State Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma. Court of Civil Appeals of Oklahoma
    • February 11, 2008 a special proceeding strictly controlled by the Constitution and statutes prescribed by the Legislature. See Public Serv. Co. of Okla. v. B. Willis, C.P.A., Inc., 1997 OK 78, ¶ 16, 941 P.2d 995, 999. The action must be carried out in accordance with Constitutional mandates and legislativ......
  • Norwood v. Horney, 2005-0227.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • July 26, 2006
    ...and we remain free to define the proper limits of the doctrine. Giesy, 4 Ohio St. at 326. See, also, Pub. Serv. Co. of Oklahoma v. B. Willis C.P.A., Inc. (1997), 1997 OK 78, 941 P.2d 995, ¶ 19 ("Under our constitutional provisions and cases interpreting them, the issue of whether a proposed......
  • State ex rel. Regents v. McCloskey Bros., 105,228.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • December 8, 2009 condemnation is found in the timely and proper filing of an exception to the report of the commissioners. Public Service Co. of Oklahoma v. B. Willis, C.P.A., Inc., 1997 OK 78, ¶ 17, 941 P.2d 995 cert. denied 552 U.S. 813, 128 S.Ct. 66, 169 L.Ed.2d 16 (2007); Young v. Seaway Pipeline, In......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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