Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Oklahoma Supreme Court
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Petitioner Sharla Whipple's twenty-three year old, unmarried son lost his life in a work related accident. Under the Workers Compensation Act, only a spouse, child, or legal guardian could file a Workers Compensation death benefit claim when a work related death occurs. Whipple's son had no spouse, child or legal guardian. Consequently, Whipple's only remedy was to file a wrongful death action. However, the trial court granted partial summary judgment against Whipple, determining that her only remedy was limited to the Workers Compensation system, rather than the district court. Whipple appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that the right of a parent as the next of kin to bring a wrongful death action when the decedent was an adult, unmarried, and childless, was established in the law pursuant to 12 O.S. 2011 section1053 and by art. 23 section 7 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Therefore, the Legislative attempt to limit recovery for wrongful death pursuant to 85A O.S. Supp. 2014 section 47 to a spouse, child or legal guardian dependent on the decedent was a nullity. "The Okla. Const ... prohibits the abrogation of the right to recover for injuries resulting in death. The Legislature may limit the recovery, but may not eliminate the right to recover." View "Whipple v. Phillips & Sons Trucking" on Justia Law

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Appellants Taylor and Cody Hudson (Hudson/parents) were arrested and charged with felony criminal child abuse in relation to the alleged abuse of one of Cody Hudson's sons. Subsequently, the State sought to terminate the Hudsons' parental rights to the four children they had together. At trial, the parents sought to preclude any evidence of the criminal charges from being presented to the jury. The trial court limited evidence of the criminal charges to only inform the jury that charges had been filed, and nothing else. The jury rendered a verdict terminating parental rights as to both parents. The Hudsons appealed. After its review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that the limited admission of evidence of the fact that parents have been charged with criminal felonies for child abuse (but not yet convicted) was made in error but did not warrant reversal; the jury's verdict was supported by the clear and convincing evidence that the abuse was heinous and shocking. View "In the Matter of K.H." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Shelli Farley, a surviving spouse of a former City of Claremore fireman, successfully obtained a death benefits award in the Workers' Compensation Commission. She then brought a District Court action for damages alleging the death of her spouse was caused by negligence and an intentional tort committed by her spouse's employer who was a local government entity. She argued her action was also for the benefit of her surviving child, as well as the surviving parents and brother of the deceased. The Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded after review of the trial court record, that a tort action for damages suffered by a surviving spouse, surviving child, and parents of a deceased adult child did not survive for the purpose of a 12 O.S. 1053 wrongful death action when: (1) The wrongful death action arises from an injury compensable by an exclusive workers' compensation remedy and the tort action is brought against the employer of the deceased; and (2) the employer can claim sovereign immunity. In this case, the wrongful death injury was adjudicated and compensated by a successful workers' compensation claim after the death of the decedent. This successful adjudication demonstrated the decedent's injury was exclusively before the Commission and not cognizable as a District Court claim at the time of decedent's death. The parents' action for loss of companionship damages was extinguished at the time of decedent's death and did not survive. And the City was immune from suit because the tort claim against it was for liability for an injury properly compensated by a claim before the Workers' Compensation Commission. The brother of the deceased did not possess a wrongful death ยง 1053 action for loss of consortium. Furthermore, the Court concluded plaintiff lacked standing to seek injunctive relief. Dismissal of this case was affirmed. View "Farley v. City of Claremore" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellee Natural Gas Pipeline Company of America LLC (NGPL) operated two interstate natural gas pipelines that crossed property owned by Defendant-appellant Foster OK Resources LP (Foster). NGPL brought a condemnation action seeking four separate easements to have consistent access to operate and maintain the pipelines and to clear title issues involving the pipelines. Foster challenged NGPL's exercise of eminent domain and whether NGPL's taking met the legal standard of necessity. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held NGPL could not contract away its right of eminent domain and was not prevented from seeking the easements at issue to operate and maintain the pipelines. NGPL's condemnation of Foster's property was for public use and met the legal standard of necessity. Furthermore, the Court held the issue of the necessity of a survey in computing just compensation owed to Foster was premature and could not be determined at this time. View "Natural Gas Pipeline Co. v. Foster OK Resources, LP" on Justia Law

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The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals certified two questions of law to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Billy Hamilton, a small-business owner in Council Hill, Oklahoma, filed a claim in December 2015 with his insurer, Northfield Insurance Company, seeking coverage for his building's leaking roof. Northfield twice denied his claim: once in February 2016, and again in April 2016. Hamilton filed suit against Northfield in November of that year, alleging bad-faith denial of his insurance claim and breach by Northfield of the insurance contract. Hamilton rejected a proposed settlement, and the matter went to trial. A jury awarded him $10,652, the maximum amount of damages the judge instructed the jury it could award. Hamilton then sought attorney fees and statutory interest under 36 O.S. section 3629(B). Northfield responded that Hamilton was not the prevailing party under the statute, given that he had recovered less than its settlement offer to him. The federal district court agreed with Northfield, and Hamilton appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Initially, a panel of that court affirmed the district court's determination that Hamilton was not the prevailing party for purposes of awarding attorney fees under section 3629(B). Following a petition for en banc rehearing by Hamilton and additional briefing by amicus curiae, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals granted panel rehearing sua sponte, vacated its opinion as to the issues raised in Hamilton's appeal, and certified the two questions to the Oklahoma Court. The questions were: (1) in determining which is the prevailing party under 36 O.S. 3629(B), should a court consider settlement offers made by the insurer outside the sixty- (formerly, ninety-) day window for making such offers pursuant to the statute?; and (2) should a court add to the verdict costs and attorney fees incurred up until the offer of settlement for comparison with a settlement offer that contemplated costs and fees? The Oklahoma Court answered both questions "no:" (1) a court may consider only those timely offers of settlement of the underlying insurance claim--and not offers to resolve an ensuing lawsuit that results from the insurer's denial of the same; and (2) this is strictly limited to the specific context of determining prevailing-party status under section 3629(B) alone. The Oklahoma Court expressed no opinion on a trial court's evaluation of the form of settlement offer described in the certifying court's second question when made outside the section 3629(B) setting. View "Hamilton v. Northfield Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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A husband and wife each requested sole custody of their minor child during divorce proceedings. Trial was held and following a hearing, sole custody of the parties' minor child was awarded to the father. Mother appealed. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found the parties had an opportunity at trial to present their evidence and make a complete trial court record and a complete appellate record. But Mother failed to preserve her challenge to the trial court's conclusion it was in the child's best interests for custody to be awarded to Father. Therefore, the district court's judgment was affirmed. View "Duke v. Duke" on Justia Law

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Video Gaming Technologies, Inc. (VGT), appeals from the district court's grant of Tulsa County Assessor's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. VGT brought a claim for relief from assessment of ad valorem taxes. The Tulsa County Assessor moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction as VGT had not paid the past-due taxes pursuant to 68 O.S.2011 section 2884. The district court granted the motion to dismiss. The Oklahoma Supreme Court determined the underlying question to this case was whether title 68, section 2884 applied to appeals from the Board of Tax Roll Corrections pursuant to title 68, section 2871. The Court concluded title 68, section 2884 did not apply to appeals pursuant to title 68, section 2871: "Timely payment of taxes is not a jurisdictional prerequisite for appeals from orders of the Board of Tax Roll Corrections. The district court erred in finding it did not have jurisdiction." Therefore, the Court reversed the order of dismissal and remanded for further proceedings. View "Video Gaming Technologies v. Tulsa County Bd. of Tax Roll Corrections" on Justia Law

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Video Gaming Technologies, Inc. ("VGT") contended the district court improperly granted summary judgment to the Rogers County Board of Tax Roll Collections ("Board"), the Rogers County Treasurer, and the Rogers County Assessor. VGT is a non-Indian Tennessee corporation authorized to do business in Oklahoma. VGT owns and leases electronic gaming equipment to Cherokee Nation Entertainment, LLC (CNE), a business entity of Nation. Nation was a federally-recognized Indian tribe headquartered in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. CNE owned and operated ten gaming facilities on behalf of Nation. The questions presented to the Oklahoma Supreme Court was whether the district court properly denied VGT's motion for summary judgment and properly granted County's counter-motion for summary judgment. VGT argued that taxation of its gaming equipment was preempted by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) because the property was located on tribal trust land under a lease to Nation for use in its gaming operations. The County argued that ad valorem taxation was justified to ensure integrity and uniform application of tax law. Due to the comprehensive nature of IGRA's regulations on gaming, the federal policies which would be threatened, and County's failure to justify the tax other than as a generalized interest in raising revenue, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found that ad valorem taxation of gaming equipment here was preempted, and reversed the order of summary judgment, and remanded for the district court to enter an appropriate order of summary judgment for VGT. View "Video Gaming Technologies v. Rogers County Bd. of Tax Roll Corrections" on Justia Law

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The estate of an individual that died as a result of an injury incurred while being a patient of a nursing home sued the nursing home facility in a wrongful death action. The district court entered default judgment for Plaintiff after Defendant failed to file a response or appear in court multiple times. Over 200 days later, Defendant filed a petition to vacate default judgment and the petition was granted. Plaintiff appealed the ruling, and the Court of Civil Appeals (COCA), affirmed the trial court's decision. The Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded it was "patently clear" Defendant's arguments for the Petition to Vacate Judgment as to liability was without merit. "[The Nursing Home] Meeker was given a multitude of opportunities to respond to the litigation, but failed to respond to a single instance for 280 days after the initial service of process. Meeker failed to respond to any service of process or appear at any hearing, and did not have an argument with merit to support the inability to respond to the litigation." Accordingly the Supreme Court vacated the opinion of the Court of Civil Appeals, reversed the trial court's judgment granting the Petition To Vacate Judgment as to liability, and remanded this matter for a trial on damages. View "Williams v. Meeker North Dawson Nursing, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellees, Cloudi Mornings and Austin Miller (collectively Cloudi Mornings) filed a Petition for Declaratory Judgment and Injunctive Relief with the District Court of Tulsa County. In the petition, Cloudi Mornings stated that it was an L.L.C. with its primary business activities located within the City of Broken Arrow and that Austin Miller was a resident of Broken Arrow, and that as a "business within city limits," they had a vested interest in City enacted medical marijuana rules related to the voter approved June 26, 2018, Initiative Petition 788 which legalized medical marijuana in the State of Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Supreme Court retained this case to address the authority of a city, such as the City of Broken Arrow, to zone/regulate a medical marijuana establishment within city limits. However, because this case lacked any case or controversy as to these plaintiffs, and was merely a request for an advisory opinion, the Court dismissed the appeal. View "Cloudi Mornings, LLC v. City of Broken Arrow" on Justia Law