A title company was retained to provide a title opinion to a potential purchaser of a residential property. The title opinion noted that the City of Tulsa held an easement for a sewer line to run under the home, and the home purchase closed without incident. Or so everyone thought at the time.
A few years later, the buyer had become a seller, and new buyers entered the picture. The new buyers learned of the City’s sewer easement and refused to complete their purchase of the home. Only then did the original buyer learn that the presence of a sanitary sewer line or sewer easement under a home was against code. The buyer-turned-seller was stuck with a house that he believed could not be legally sold.
Naturally, he looked for someone to sue, settling upon the title company as his defendant. The homeowner listed several theories of liability in his Petition filed in Tulsa County District Court. The case appeared to be on track for a jury to weigh whether the title company had disclosed everything it should have in its title opinion.
Partner Bill McKee and associate Kyle Rogers took a different view, however, thinking that the case could be resolved short of a full jury trial. They prepared a motion for summary judgment on behalf of the title company, arguing that an Oklahoma title company does not have a duty to explain the practical or legal effects of an easement on a title, and furthermore, that no duty is imposed on a title company to determine whether a property title is marketable. Success was by no means assured as Oklahoma law offered no precedent on-point. Nonetheless, Bill and Kyle’s advocacy gave the Court the tools it needed to grant summary judgment to the title company.