Articles Posted in Oklahoma Supreme Court

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Parents sued medical providers for injuries sustained during their child's birth, alleging negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment to defendant Mercy Health Center. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing the trial court did not apply a correct standard for causation and failed to recognize the testimony from their expert witnesses. Mercy argued the trial court correctly sustained a motion for summary judgment which relied in part on a “Daubert” motion filed by Mercy. Mercy also argued plaintiffs failed to show causation, as required in a negligence action by an expert opinion. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed the summary judgment because plaintiffs' materials used to object to summary judgment showed expert opinions on causation sufficient to create a question of fact. The Court also explained a Daubert adjudication may not be applied retroactively to support a prior judgment. View "Andrew v. Depani-Sparkes" on Justia Law

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The trial court granted the request of a wholesaler of veterinary prescription drugs to set aside a final order of the Oklahoma Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (“Vet Board”) wherein the Board ordered the wholesaler to produce certain requested documents and fined it $25,000 for failure to do so. The Supreme Court found nothing in the Vet Act made wholesale distributors of veterinary prescription drugs, who are licensed and regulated by the Pharmacy Board through the Pharmacy Act, subject to the Vet Act and its investigative power. As such, the Vet Board was without statutory authority to investigate or sanction wholesalers who fell under the regulation of the Pharmacy Board, let alone fine a wholesaler $25,000 for failure to produce records that the Vet Board could have inspected in the regular course of the wholesaler's business. View "Farmacy, LLC v. Kirkpatrick" on Justia Law

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Shonda Brisco entered into an employment agreement with Oklahoma State University, which provided that she would be reappointed contingent on her job performance. She was not reappointed and successfully brought suit for breach of contract. After trial, the district court awarded Brisco attorney fees under 12 O.S. 2011 section 936. The State appealed the award of fees, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to address whether fees were authorized under 12 O.S. 2011 section 936, and held they were not. View "Brisco v. Oklahoma ex rel Bd. of Regents Agricultural & Mechanical Colleges" on Justia Law

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Employee-appellant Tracy Meeks sued an insurer for bad faith refusal to timely comply with several orders of the Workers' Compensation Court awarding employee temporary total disability benefits after the insurer, without good cause, withheld employee's benefits on twenty-six separate occasions. Insurer moved for dismissal, asserting employee failed to obtain a certification order from the Workers' Compensation Court (a jurisdictional prerequisite for commencing a bad-faith action in district court). The District Court granted insurer's motion, but the Supreme Court reversed. Because the certification requirements were met here, employee was free to proceed in district court on his bad-faith claim against insurer for insurer's alleged bad faith refusal to provide temporary total disability benefits as ordered by the WCC. View "Meeks v. Guarantee Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The question presented to the Oklahoma Supreme Court by this case was whether the district court abused its discretion when it denied Appellant's (Biological Mother) second motion for reconsideration. In 2013, the district court terminated Biological Mother's parental rights to K.S. In 2015, Biological Mother filed a petition for guardianship over Child in Oklahoma County District Court. The district court denied the petition for guardianship without prejudice. The court noted Biological Mother's failure to serve or notify the proper parties and inability to do so in the future due to the confidentiality of adoption proceedings. The same day, Biological Mother filed a motion for reconsideration of the petition for guardianship and a motion asking the court to grant time to provide notice. The district court denied the motions for reconsideration and to grant time. The court noted that the motions were incoherent and stated that the court felt the petition contained circumstances such that the motions should be decided without a hearing under Rule 4(h) of the Rules for District Courts of Oklahoma. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's ruling, finding the district court was correct that notifying Parents of the guardianship proceeding was “an insurmountable hurdle” to Biological Mother and that it was allowed to deny the motion without a hearing. There was no abuse of discretion. View "In the matter of K.S." on Justia Law

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Appellants Bruce Schultz and Jared Bruce mutually sought to vacate their adult adoption granted ten years prior. The issue in this case was whether the trial court lacked authority to vacate an adult adoption where both parties sought the termination of parental rights as competent adults. The trial court opined that because the Oklahoma Adoption Code, 10 O.S. 2011, section 7507-1.1, neither authorized nor prohibited the vacation of adult adoptions, it lacked authority to vacate the existing order. Appellants appealed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court directly, and the Supreme Court retained the first impression matter. Based on the Legislature's provisions in granting adult adoptions, parallel provisions for vacating adoptions of minor children, and the overall intent of the Adoption Code, the Supreme Court found an error warranting remand to the trial court to rehear Appellants' petition. As the trial court correctly found consent and competency of the parties, upon remand it needed only conduct a best-interest determination in deciding the matter. "With neither bad faith nor fraudulent motive of the parties, we find no evidence to suggest that the termination of rights herein would not serve their best interests." View "In the Matter of the Termination of Parental Rights of Schultz" on Justia Law

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The Workers' Compensation Court issued two orders in two proceedings in 2008 and two orders in two proceedings in 2009. These four orders in four different proceedings required the Multiple Injury Trust Fund (Fund) to make periodic payments to injured workers and their lawyers for attorney's fees. The four claimants in these proceedings died, and the Fund stopped making payments to their lawyers upon determining an amount equal to eighty (80) weeks of compensation had been paid or tendered to the lawyers. Claimants' lawyers sought a determination the Fund had failed to make payments as required by the orders issued in 2008 and 2009. The Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims directed the Fund to pay attorneys' fees in each of the four proceedings as provided in the original orders. The Fund sought review of these orders before a three-judge panel of the Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims, and the panel affirmed the four orders of the trial judge. The Fund sought review from the Oklahoma Supreme Court. After its review, the Supreme Court held: (1) it had jurisdiction to review a decision of the Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims when a party aggrieved by that decision has filed a timely petition for review by the Supreme Court in accordance with the law in effect prior to February 1, 2014; (2) The Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims had jurisdiction to determine if the Fund made payments as required by the court's previous orders; (3) The Multiple Injury Trust Fund's liability for attorney's fees in these cases was determined by the specific statute concerning payment of attorney's fees by the Fund, 85 O.S.Supp.2005 section 172(H); and (4) 85 O.S.Supp. 2005 section 172(H) was not an unconstitutional special law. View "Multiple Injury Trust Fund v. Coburn" on Justia Law

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Insured Kourtni Martin suffered serious injuries from an automobile collision in Oklahoma City with Nicholas Gray. At the time of the collision, Insured had UM coverage with Goodville Mutual Casualty Company. The policy was purchased by her parents while they lived in Kansas. She was, however, a listed/rated driver in the policy. Before the collision, Martin's parents notified the Kansas agent that she was moving to Oklahoma to live with her grandmother and that her vehicle would be garaged in Oklahoma. After the collision, the claim was reported to the agent in Kansas who then transmitted the claim to Insurer which was located principally in Pennsylvania. The claim was adjusted out of Pennsylvania. Martin was unable to locate Gray. Her attempts to serve Gray, or his insurer, in Oklahoma and Texas failed. Martin filed this lawsuit against Gray alleging negligence (later adding breach of contract and bad faith against her Insurer). After service by publication, Gray answered asserting a general denial. Martin sought compensation from the Insurer pursuant to her UM policy and negotiations began between Insured and Insurer regarding medical bills and projected future medical bills substantially in excess of $100,000. Insurer offered $27,000 for medical expenses under the "Kansas No Fault Benefits" and $10,000 in UM coverage. The trial court, after reviewing the policy at issue here, applied Kansas law to this case and dismissed Martin's bad faith claim against the Insurer (with prejudice). After review, however, the Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in applying Kansas law, finding that the actions by Insurer related to the bad-faith claim appear to have occurred primarily in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania: (1) any injury from the alleged bad faith occurred in Oklahoma where Insured is located; (2) the alleged conduct causing injury from bad faith occurred in Oklahoma or Pennsylvania, where the claim was handled; (3) the domicile of Insurer and Insured are Pennsylvania and Oklahoma, respectively, and (4) the place where the relationship between the parties occurred had yet to be determined. However, because the trial court did not apply the "most significant relationship test," there was no evaluation of these factors according to their relative importance. Despite the parties' voluntary settlement of this case, the Supreme Court nevertheless remanded this case for the trial court to make findings with respect to the "most significant relationship test," and then to dismiss. View "Martin v. Gray" on Justia Law

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The issue in this case was whether Father and Stepmother's adoption of the Child, at which proceedings the Child's biological maternal Grandmother did not appear, controlled the outcome of Grandmother's previously filed and pending visitation petition. The trial court ruled that Grandmother's nonappearance divested her right to seek visitation, and the opposition of both parents in this newly created intact nuclear family precluded the court from authorizing such a visitation. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed this judgment, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari. Grandmother argued that she did not lose her right to seek visitation by not appearing at the adoption (at which she lacked standing to do so); her due process rights were violated by the trial court's sua sponte ruling; and the adoption--granted subsequent to and while her visitation petition remained pending--equally did not divest her of this right. The Supreme Court found that Grandmother's properly filed, undecided petition arrived to the court four months before Stepmother petitioned to adopt and six months before the court granted the adoption. Grandmother followed all required procedure by filing, providing notice, and awaiting her day in court. "She should not be penalized for another court's decision to resolve the separate and subsequently-filed action of adoption without reference to the impact of that ruling on her pending petition." Furthermore, by deciding the adoption prior to resolution of the visitation petition--thereby framing Grandmother's rights in reference to the subsequently filed, subsequently granted adoption--the trial court disposed of Grandmother's opportunity to ever obtain any "previously granted" visitation right. The court's determination of the adoption before resolution of the previously filed visitation effectively deprived Grandmother of her statutory right to seek visitation of the Child. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded to the trial court to hear Appellant's petition for grandparental visitation. View "Birtciel v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Drew Bowers (Ward) sustained a traumatic brain injury in 1981. As a result of the injury, he required 24-hour care. His mother, Patricia Bowers Edwards (Guardian) was appointed guardian of her son's person and property in 2004. As guardian, she was responsible for hiring approximately ten caretakers for Drew in his private residence. Two of the ten caretakers contracted to provide services for Drew were domestic workers, Deborah Sizemore and Brad Garrett. In 2013, Sizemore filed a "charge of discrimination" pursuant to the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act, with the Attorney General's Office of Civil Rights Enforcement, claiming that her hours were dramatically reduced when she told the guardian she suffered from narcolepsy. Sizemore also claimed that she was sexually harassed at work by a male co-worker. She identified co-worker Garrett as a supporting witness in her complaint. The Guardian terminated the employment of both Sizemore and Garrett when she received the complaint from the Attorney General. The Guardian admitted she discharged Sizemore and Garrett from employment because the complaint was "the straw that broke the camel's back." Guardian moved for summary judgment arguing that Drew was the actual employer and that under section 1301 of the Act, a natural person did not meet the definition of "employer." Guardian further argued that under section 1302(B) of the Act, the prohibition of discriminatory practices did not apply to " . . .employment in the domestic service of the employer." The trial court denied Guardian's motion for summary judgment and Guardian brought this original action asserting immunity under the Act. Finding that indeed, Guardian was immune from suit under the Act, and that the trial court erred by not dismissing this case, the Supreme Court remanded the matter for the trial court to vacate its judgment and dismiss the case. View "Edwards v. Andrews" on Justia Law