Snow v. Town of Calumet

Citation512 P.3d 369
Decision Date21 June 2022
Docket Number119,748
Parties Steve SNOW and Kaci Snow, Plaintiffs/Appellants, v. TOWN OF CALUMET, Oklahoma, Defendant/Appellee
CourtSupreme Court of Oklahoma

512 P.3d 369

Steve SNOW and Kaci Snow, Plaintiffs/Appellants,
v.
TOWN OF CALUMET, Oklahoma, Defendant/Appellee,

No. 119,748

Supreme Court of Oklahoma.

FILED JUNE 21, 2022


Sean C. Wagner, Wagner Hicks, PLLC, Charlotte, North Carolina, for Plaintiffs/Appellants.

Joseph P. Weaver and Jana L. Knott, Bass Law, El Reno, Oklahoma, for Defendant/Appellee.

Winchester, J.

¶1 The limited issue before this Court is whether Appellants Steve Snow and Kaci Snow (the Snows) have standing to assert a claim for inverse condemnation against the Town of Calumet (Town), Oklahoma. We answer this question in the affirmative. Town's temporary easements for sewer lines installed by Town on the Snows' property expired in 2010, and Town then sought perpetual easements without compensation from the Snows for the continual use and maintenance of the sewer lines. Under these facts, the Snows have standing to assert a claim for inverse condemnation.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2 In June 2010, the Snows purchased real property located in Town. The former owners of the real property had granted temporary easements to Town in 1978 to install and maintain two municipal sewer lines located on the Snows' property. The temporary easements expired in December 2010.

¶3 In May 2018, over seven years after the easements expired, Town requested that the Snows execute perpetual easements for Town's continued use and maintenance of the sewer lines. The Snows sought compensation from Town for the easements, but Town declined to compensate the Snows.

¶4 The Snows filed this action against Town for trespass and inverse condemnation. Town filed a counterclaim seeking to quiet title to the easements by prescription. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. The district court granted in part the Snows'

512 P.3d 372

motion for summary judgment on Town's quiet title claim, holding the municipal sewer lines were permissive until the temporary easements expired in 2010 and Town had not satisfied the statutory period of fifteen years for prescriptive easements. The district court also granted Town's motion for summary judgment on the Snows' claims for trespass and inverse condemnation. The district court held that Town was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the Snows' trespass claim because the former owners of the property consented to Town entering the property and installing the sewer lines. As to the Snows' inverse condemnation claim, the district court held that the Snows lacked standing to assert an inverse condemnation claim because the right to this claim belonged to the former owners of the property when Town installed the sewer lines in 1978. The Snows appealed the district court's judgment regarding their inverse condemnation claim. We retained the appeal.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶5 Summary judgment resolves issues of law, and we review a district court's grant of summary judgment de novo . U.S. Bank, N.A. ex rel. Credit Suisse First Boston Heat 2005--4 v. Alexander , 2012 OK 43, ¶ 13, 280 P.3d 936, 939. Using the de novo standard, we subject the record to a new and independent examination without regard to the trial court's reasoning or result. Gladstone v. Bartlesville Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 30 , 2003 OK 30, ¶ 5, 66 P.3d 442, 446. The Court has plenary, independent, and non-deferential authority to determine whether the trial tribunal erred in its legal rulings. State ex rel. Protective Health Servs. State Dep't of Health v. Vaughn , 2009 OK 61, ¶ 9, 222 P.3d 1058, 1064. All inferences and conclusions are to be drawn from the underlying facts contained in the record and are to be considered in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. U.S. Bank , 2012 OK 43, ¶ 13, 280 P.3d at 939. If reasonable individuals could reach different factual conclusions under the evidentiary materials, summary judgment is improper. Id .

DISCUSSION

¶6 The Oklahoma Constitution guarantees that private property will not be taken or damaged for public use without just compensation. Okla. Const. art. 2, § 24. When a governmental entity takes or damages private property without just compensation, a person may bring an inverse condemnation claim. State ex rel. Dep't of Transp. v. Post , 2005 OK 69, ¶ 7, 125 P.3d 1183, 1186. The essential elements of an inverse condemnation claim are (1) a taking of property for public use by a governmental entity that has the power of eminent domain, and (2) a failure to tender just compensation. Drabek v. City of Norman , 1996 OK 126, ¶ 4, 946 P.2d 658, 659. We construe our State constitutional eminent domain provisions "strictly in favor of the owner and against the condemning party." Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs of Muskogee Cty. v. Lowery , 2006 OK 31, ¶ 11, 136 P.3d 639, 646.

¶7 The general rule is that the right of inverse condemnation belongs to the owner at the time of the taking. Cox Enters., Ltd. v. Phillips Petroleum Co. , 1976 OK 75, ¶ 9, 550 P.2d 1324, 1326. The two exceptions that the Court has...

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