Articles Posted in Oklahoma Supreme Court

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Defendant-appellee Jake Watkins was driving under the influence of alcohol and rear-ended a vehicle owned and operated by plaintiff-appellant Lee McIntosh. McIntosh's vehicle was damaged and he and the former co-plaintiff Anthony McIntosh were injured. Both vehicles pulled over to the shoulder of the road and the parties exited their vehicles to discuss the accident and to inspect the damage. At some point plaintiff stated he needed to call the police to report the accident. When Watkins heard this he returned to his vehicle and fled the scene without providing McIntosh any information required by law. Watkins was later arrested and charged with two counts: (1) driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol; and (2) leaving the scene of an accident involving damage. He pled no contest to the two counts and received a deferred judgment and sentence.Months late, McIntosh signed a settlement agreement which settled all of his bodily injury claims for the sum of $25,000.00. McIntosh was also paid $17,545.66 to fully repair his vehicle and an additional $7,000.00 for the diminution of value claim. The only remaining issue left to be decided by the trial court was whether McIntosh was entitled to receive treble damages for the damage sustained to his vehicle. Watkins moved for summary judgment on the treble damages issue, which the trial court granted, finding McIntosh was not entitled to treble damages due to the fact he had incurred not only property damage to his vehicle but he also sustained a nonfatal injury. McIntosh appealed the trial court's ruling on that issue. The Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed, finding the treble damage provision in 47 O.S. 2011, section 10-103 applied even if a victim sustains an injury. View "McIntosh v. Watkins" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Oklahoma Schools Risk Management Trust (OSRMT) brought a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration it was not liable for losses sustained by McAlester Public Schools resulting from a ruptured water pipe in one of its schools. McAlester Public Schools answered, alleged breach of contract by plaintiff, and sought indemnification for its losses. A trial court granted summary judgment for Oklahoma Schools Risk Management Trust on its request for declaratory relief and against McAlester Public Schools on its indemnity claim. McAlester Public Schools appealed the judgment. The Oklahoma Supreme Court agreed with McAlester Schools that OSMRT failed to show a policy-based exclusion to coverage, reversed summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Okla. Schools Risk Management Trust v. McAlester Pub. Schools" on Justia Law

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Husband and Wife were divorced following a four-day trial. On June 30, 2016, a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, memorializing the trial court's rulings, was filed in the proceeding. On July 15, 2016, Husband and Wife both filed motions seeking reconsideration of certain aspects of the Decree. Husband subsequently filed a response to Wife's motion, arguing it had not been filed within ten days; and therefore, was not timely under 12 O.S. 2011 sec. 653. The trial court denied Wife's motion, concluding it had been filed out of time. On appeal, the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the trial court's denial of Wife's motion to reconsider, also concluding Wife's motion was not timely filed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted Wife's petition for certiorari, and determined both tribunals erred by miscalculating the ten-day deadline in section 653 in light of the time computation requirements in 12 O.S. 2011 sec. 2006(A). View "Christian v. Christian" on Justia Law

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The district court found respondent-appellant Warren Ellis, Jr. guilty of contempt related to his failure to follow the terms of a divorce decree and separation agreement. Ellis appealed when the trial court issued a certified interlocutory order for immediate appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The Supreme Court denied the respondent's petition for review. Subsequently, Ellis submitted a purge plan to the trial court to purge his contempt. Upon completion of the purge plan, the trial court issued a summary order purging the contempt. Ellis again appealed the finding of contempt, arguing that because the Supreme Court did not grant his previous petition to review the interlocutory order, he was unconstitutionally denied access to Court. He also argued the trial court: (1) improperly applied res judicata to a previous bankruptcy court proceeding; (2) improperly interpreted the separation agreement; and (3) erred in finding him guilty of contempt. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held respondent was not unconstitutionally denied access to Court, and that the trial court did not err in its application of res judicata, in its interpretation of the separation agreement, or in finding the respondent in contempt. Consequently, it affirmed the trial court. View "Lay v. Ellis" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Trina Engles received temporary total disability benefits in 2006, for a December 2, 2005 injury. She had fallen backwards in a chair at work, which caused the injury. On January 15, 2010, Engles received permanent partial disability benefits for the neck injury. She had previously suffered a non-work-related injury in 1998. That injury occurred from an electrocution and fall at her home. She had multiple back and neck surgeries as a result. Ultimately she was awarded benefits from the Multiple Injury Trust Fund based on the most recent Court of Civil Appeals decision. MITF filed a timely petition for certiorari to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, arguing the Court had never before addressed the conclusion and holding of the Court of Civil Appeals. It argued the holding that a PTD benefit claimant against MITF may reopen an underlying case during the pendency of a claim against MITF, settle the reopened claim, and then use the settlement to later obtain a MITF award after another division of the Court of Civil Appeals ruled there was no jurisdiction for claimant's claim of benefits against MITF. MITF also argued the court did not follow the Supreme Court's jurisprudence, arguing it ignored the law-of-the-case doctrine. MITF claims the court did not correctly apply the statute, ignoring the Court's case law that a change of condition for the worse was not a subsequent injury under section 172. MITF contended that Engles was not eligible for benefits as she only has one previous adjudicated injury and her change of condition for the worse just reopened the original injury. Finally, MITF argued the court determined the competence of evidence sua sponte, contradicting Oklahoma case law. The Supreme Court agreed that Engles had one adjudicated injury, and suffered no subsequent injury after her 2005 injury; she could not be a physically impaired person and the appellate court lacked jurisdiction against MITF. "Reopening a lone injury and characterizing the resulting compromise settlement as a second adjudicated injury cannot establish jurisdiction over MITF." The Court vacated the opinion of the Court of Civil Appeals and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Engles v. Multiple Injury Trust Fund" on Justia Law

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The petitioner-employer sought review of the Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims which upheld a trial court's determination that respondent-employee Jennifer Hodge suffered a change of condition for the worse to her left leg/knee when she was injured in a medical facility where she was receiving medical treatment to a previously adjudicated body part. The employer urged there was insufficient evidence to support the trial court's decision because: (1) any injury arose from an intervening negligent act; and (2) there was no medical evidence to support a worsening of condition to employee's left leg/knee. The three-judge panel disagreed with Employer and affirmed the trial court. Employer then filed a Petition for Review and the Court of Civil Appeals vacated the decision of the three-judge panel. Hodge filed a Petition for Certiorari to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Granting review, the Supreme Court found competent evidence to support the decisions from the trial court and the three-judge panel. Accordingly, the Court vacated the Court of Civil Appeals and affirmed the Workers' Compensation Court. View "City of Tulsa v. Hodge" on Justia Law

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Daniel Phillips was convicted of multiple counts of indecent or lewd acts with children under the age of sixteen. The mother of the children sued Phillips, alleging various torts arising out of his crimes. The mother moved for partial summary judgment in the case, arguing that Phillips's conviction for the crimes established his liability for the torts. In response, Phillips argued that because his conviction was the product of an Alford plea--where a defendant admitted there was sufficient evidence to support a conviction, but nonetheless insisted that he did not commit the crimes--his conviction could not preclude him from disputing liability in the civil case. The district court agreed with the mother, granting partial summary adjudication in her favor on the issue of liability. Phillips asked the district court to certify that decision for immediate review. The district court did so, and Phillips timely petitioned the Oklahoma Supreme Court for certiorari. The Court granted the petition and, finding no reversible error in the district court's decision, affirmed. View "Martin v. Phillips" on Justia Law

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On May 1, 2018, Respondents-proponents Dr. Tom Coburn, Brooke McGowan, and Ronda Vuillemont-Smith timely filed Referendum Petition No. 25, State Question No. 799 (the petition) with the Oklahoma Secretary of State. The petition sought to refer HB 1010xx to the people of Oklahoma for their approval or rejection at the regular election to be held on November 6, 2018. Protestants, several educators and organizations purporting to represent Oklahoma educational interests, timely filed an original action protesting the legal sufficiency of the petition, asserting the gist of the petition was legally insufficient for several reasons, and further asserted the petition was legally insufficient for failure to include an exact copy of the text of the measure as required by 34 O.S. Supp. 2015 sec. 1. Finding the referendum was indeed insufficient, the Oklahoma Supreme Court declared it invalid and ordered stricken from the November 2018 ballot. View "Oklahoma's Children, Our Future, Inc. v. Coburn" on Justia Law

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The estate of a driver killed in a vehicle/train collision sued a railroad company in a wrongful death action. The District Court entered judgment on the jury verdict finding the driver and railroad negligent and apportioned fault. The railroad, Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad Company (BNSF) appealed, and also appealed the post-trial order overruling its motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, motion for a new trial. In substance, BNSF contended that federal law preempted the driver's claims, challenged the fairness of the trial proceedings and challenged the amount of damages awarded. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed judgment in favor of the driver's estate. View "Nye v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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This case centered on a dispute between Green Meadow Realty Co. (Realtor) and Roger and Mary Gillock (Owners) over Realtor's right to a commission. Realtor sued to recover a commission on a sale to certain buyers that Owners believed were excluded from the listing agreement. Realtor relied on an addendum to the listing agreement that limited the period of time in which an excluded sale could occur as well as the fact that the sale closed outside the time period. Owners claimed they insisted on a complete exclusion and did not knowingly agree to a time limit for the excluded sale, despite having signed the addendum. Owners asserted that they signed the addendum without reading it based on Realtor's representation that it set forth "your exclusion." The trial court concluded Owners were bound by the addendum, having had the opportunity to read it and not doing so. The trial court granted summary judgment to Realtor. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the summary judgment awarding Realtor the commission, but reversed for further proceedings on a counter claim by Owners. Owners sought certiorari review. Realtor did not. The trial court and Court of Civil Appeals regarded Owners' failure to read the addendum when presented with it to be dispositive. The Oklahoma Supreme Court found while this was certainly important, ultimately, the communications and conduct of the parties with respect to the addendum "must be judged in the totality of the circumstances surrounding its creation. The conflicting positions and evidentiary materials of the parties in the case at hand pose a comparable controversy that would preclude summary judgment on Realtor's claim for a commission." View "Green Meadow Realty Co. v. Gillock" on Justia Law