Two civil cases filed against a Tulsa flood restoration company will not be heard in Ottawa County, per a ruling issued Thursday by District Judge Robert Haney.
Haney made the ruling following an evidentiary hearing during which local attorney Erik Johnson attempted to discredit contracts drawn between his clients and Burggraf Services Inc.
Attorneys representing Burggraf petitioned the court to dismiss the cases against their client or move the litigation to Tulsa County - as is mandated by the restoration company's contract agreements.
Leeanne Reeves and Betty Kelly, who own homes damaged by the July 2007 flood, both signed work authorization forms in the aftermath of the natural disaster.
Their signature, according to Haney, bound them to the condition of the formal agreement which fully disclosed the conditions of litigation and met all the statutory requirements of a proper contract.
Burggraf, represented by John W. Anderson Jr., cited the restoration contracts which state “Any proceedings under, or to enforce, this agreement shall be conducted in the City of Tulsa, Tulsa County, Okla. Jurisdiction shall lie exclusively in the district court in and for Tulsa County.”
“Burggraf requires each of its customers to agree to its terms and conditions as a prerequisite to its entering into a business relationship with that customer,” Anderson stated in his motion to dismiss. “
Reeves and Kelly filed separate suits in Ottawa County District Court in December of last year, each asking that they be released from their contracts and that measures be taken to withdraw liens on their property.
Plaintiffs in both cases allege that their consent was obtained through “duress, fraud and undue influence” exercised by the defendant.
Reeves recalled signing the authorization form on the hood of a vehicle while she stood in the driveway of her Quail Creek Drive residence.
She does not recall noting the paragraph disclosing the terms of litigation.
“Maybe I read it, but I just don't recall … I had just lost my home and everything in it,” Reeves said.
Haney expressed his dissatisfaction with having to move the litigation to Tulsa and away from Ottawa County which holds all the evidence of the case.
“But, a contract is a contract,” Haney said. “As distasteful as I find it, I have to agree that the plaintiffs in this case will have to go to Tulsa County … I am not going to dismiss this case.”