Articles Posted in Oklahoma Supreme Court

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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

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Petitioner Octavio Pina was employed as a pipeline installer by American Piping Inspection, Inc. At the time of his injury, he worked at an oilrig site approximately 130 miles away from his home. Petitioner traveled weekly to Employer's drilling site; he would work 6 days then return home on the weekend. Employer provided a daily per diem payment for lodging and meals incurred. Employer used Petitioner's truck to haul work related equipment and materials and paid him $50 per day for the use of his truck. At the time of Petitioner's injury, it was the practice of Employer to pay for the gas necessary to refuel Petitioner's truck each morning before traveling to the rig site. Petitioner was required to stop at the Employer-designated gas station at the time set by the supervisor. Employer also agreed to purchase ice and water each day for the entire crew, but only if they stopped at the designated gas station at the time specified by Employer. Employer had been paying for Petitioner's gasoline for three months prior to his injury. On the morning of September 22, 2014, Petitioner met his supervisor at the designated gas station to get ice, water and gasoline. The supervisor agreed that "Claimant was reporting to work that morning when he made it to the gas station." On his way to the worksite, Petitioner had a collision and sustained serious injuries. Emergency medical care was given and Petitioner was transported via helicopter for medical treatment. Petitioner never arrived at the drilling site that morning. Although Petitioner did not sign the attendance sheet at the rig site that morning, Employer paid him for a full day of work. Petitioner filed a claim for benefits under the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act (AWCA). Employer denied the claim was compensable within the meaning of the AWCA on the following grounds: (1) Petitioner was not performing employment services at the time of injury; and (2) the injury did not occur in the course and scope of employment. The administrative law judge determined Petitioner's injury did not occur in the course and scope of employment within the meaning of the AWCA and denied his claim. The Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed, finding Petitioner was in the course and scope of his employment as the term was defined in 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 sec 2 (13) because his actions at the time of injury were related to and in furtherance of the business of the employer. View "Pina v. American Piping Inspection" on Justia Law

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James David Lind, Sr. (Decedent) was an employee of Defendant-appellee Barnes Tag Agency Inc. (BTA). Decedent was hired in 2010, to perform maintenance work on property owned individually by Defendant Jim T. Roy Barnes (Barnes), the sole stockholder of BTA. On February 21, 2010, there was an explosion on the property while Decedent was present, resulting in a fire. Descendent sustained severe injuries that led to his death on February 26, 2010. Plaintiff-appellant, the administrator Lind’s estate filed suit against BTA and the sole stockholder, alleging negligence. The defendants moved for summary judgment arguing they possessed immunity from suit pursuant to the provisions of the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Act. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The administrator appealed, arguing the trial court erred by determining that Jim T. Roy Barnes, as the individual owner of the property, was immune from suit. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. The question presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s review in this case was whether the sole shareholder of a corporation, who individually owned the property where an employee of the corporation sustained fatal injuries, was immune from suit for common-law negligence in district court under the provisions of the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Act. The Supreme Court held in the negative: a corporation and its sole owner and shareholder are separate entities and the immunity of the workers' compensation laws that shields the corporation from tort liability to employees does not extend to the owner of the corporation as a third-party landowner. View "Lind v. Barnes Tag Agency" on Justia Law

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This case involved an order of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission that granted Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company pre-approval to install pollution-control devices at one of its power plants. The order raised two issues: (1) whether res judicata precluded the Commission from pre-approving OG&E's capital expenditure; and (2) whether the Commission could grant pre-approval under Okla. Const. art. 9, section 181 and 17 O.S. 2011 sec. 151 et seq. rather than 17 O.S. 2011 sec. 286(B). The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that although res judicata did not preclude the Commission from pre-approving the expenditure, it lacked authority outside of 17 O.S. 2011 sec. 286(B)2 to do so. View "Sierra Club v. Oklahoma Corporation Comm'n" on Justia Law

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In 2007, plaintiffs-appellants, Taracorp and Tara and Kelly Barlean, (collectively Taracorp) obtained a default judgment against defendants-appellees, Jeff Dailey and AJ's Bargain World in Colorado. Three days later, Taracorp sought to collect on the judgment by filing a lien on the real estate of the judgment debtors in Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma. Taracorp abandoned the Pottawatomie case, but re-filed the Colorado judgment in Marshall County, Oklahoma, nearly nine years later in 2016. The judgment debtors sought to quash the Colorado judgment because Oklahoma's five year limitation for enforcing judgments had lapsed. The trial court agreed, and quashed the Colorado judgment. Taracorp appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals vacated the trial court's ruling and remanded for further proceedings. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari to address whether the Colorado judgment, enforceable in Colorado for twenty years after the judgment, was also enforceable in Oklahoma by re-filing it a second time in Oklahoma, after Oklahoma's five year limitation period for enforcing judgments lapsed. The Supreme Court held that when a judgment creditor seeks to enforce a Colorado judgment a second time in Oklahoma, after Oklahoma's limitation period has lapsed on the original judgment, the underlying original Colorado judgment enforceable for twenty years may be enforced in Oklahoma. View "Taracorp v. Dailey" on Justia Law