In re: Hayes Family Trust v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., involved a property damage claim where the policyholder invoked the appraisal process after the parties could not agree on the amount of the loss.
The policy establishes a procedure whereby each party selects an impartial appraiser; the appraisers then select an impartial umpire. But if the appraisers are unable to agree on an umpire, the policy grants either party the right to seek appointment of the umpire by the court. After Hayes sought the district court’s assistance with the appointment of an umpire, the parties participated in the appraisal process, which resulted in a unanimous award.
State Farm paid the balance of that award, and Hayes accepted payment. But despite State Farm’s payment, at Hayes’s request, the district court confirmed the award and entered judgment in favor of Hayes. Hayes promptly moved for an award of prejudgment interest, attorney’s fees, and costs under a prevailing party statute. In response, State Farm moved to vacate or amend the judgment. Finding that the parties settled any dispute over the amount of loss, the court agreed with State Farm and vacated its order confirming the appraisal award and the judgment.
Hayes now appealed the order vacating judgment in an attempt to recover prejudgment interest, fees, and costs. The Tenth Circuit affirmed. Under Oklahoma insurance appraisal law, the appraisal award was not binding on State Farm because it did not invoke the appraisal process. Therefore, State Farm’s voluntary payment of the award, and Hayes’s acceptance of that payment, settled any dispute over the amount of loss to Hayes’s property. Because the parties settled their dispute over the amount of loss, the district court properly vacated its earlier judgment in favor of Hayes. For the same reason, because the court vacated the judgment, Hayes cannot be a “prevailing party” under the Oklahoma Insurance Code’s prevailing party statute.