Articles Posted in Oklahoma Supreme Court

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In 2012, petitioners Saint Francis Hospital, Inc., Neurological Surgery, Inc., and Douglas Koontz, M.D. performed decompressive laminectomies of respondent Johnson John’s spine at the C2-3, C3-4, C4-5, C5-6 and C6-7 regions. After the operation, respondent allegedly became partially paralyzed, suffered constant pain, was hospitalized for four months and submitted to additional medical treatment. Respondent filed suit against petitioners in 2016, alleging negligence, gross negligence, medical malpractice and sought punitive damages for petitioners’ failure to render reasonable medical care, breach of the duty of care owed and respondent’s resulting injuries. In commencing the action, respondent failed to attach an affidavit of merit to the Petition or otherwise comply with Okla. Stat. tit. 12, section 19.1. In lieu of answer, petitioners filed their respective motions to dismiss and asserted, among other things, respondent’s failure to include the statutorily required affidavit of merit or, in the alternative, obtain a statutorily recognized exception. Respondent averred that the statutory directive unconstitutionally restrained a litigant's right to access the courts and was an unconstitutional special law. The district court provided notice to the Attorney General's office concerning the challenged statute. As intervenor, the Attorney General essentially urged the district court to enforce the affidavit requirements. The district court ultimately overruled petitioners’ motions to dismiss, and rejected respondent’s special law challenge. The court determined that section 19.1 unconstitutionally imposed a substantial and impermissible impediment to access to the courts, and this barrier was unconstitutional regardless of the financial worth of a litigant and was not cured by exercising the indigent from this burden. The Oklahoma Supreme Court agreed with the district court’s ruling, and found section 19.1 was an impermissible barrier to court access and an unconstitutional special law. Section 19.1 was therefore stricken. View "John v. St. Francis Hospital" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, Sierra Club, requested the Oklahoma Supreme Court to assume original jurisdiction and petitioned for a writ of prohibition or mandamus. Petitioner alleged that House Bill 1449 was a revenue bill that violated Article V, Section 33 of the Oklahoma Constitution. H.B. 1449 created the Motor Fuels Tax Fee for electric-drive and hybrid-drive vehicles, of $100 and $30 per year respectively, and directed that the money from the fees be deposited to the State Highway Construction and Maintenance Fund. The House passed H.B. 1449 on May 22, 2017 and the Senate passed it on May 25, 2017. H.B. 1449 passed with more than 51%, but less than 75%, of the vote in both chambers. It was scheduled to take effect November 1, 2017. The Oklahoma Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction and transformed the petition into a request for declaratory relief. The Court found H.B. 1449 was enacted to raise revenue and was in violation of Article V, Section 33 of the Oklahoma Constitution. View "Sierra Club v. Oklahoma ex rel. Oklahoma Tax Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought an action in the District Court for Custer County and claimed a convenience store negligently and recklessly sold low-point beer to a noticeably intoxicated person who injured plaintiffs in a vehicle collision several hours later. This appeal raised two issues for the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s resolution: (1) whether Oklahoma jurisprudence recognized a cause of action against a commercial vendor of alcohol who sells alcohol to a noticeably intoxicated adult for consumption off of the premises when the sale results in an injury to an innocent third party; and (2) whether the facts submitted during the process for summary judgment were sufficient to show a controverted issue of fact or a difference in inferences sufficient to reverse the trial court's summary judgment. The Supreme Court answered both questions in the affirmative. View "Boyle v. ASAP Energy, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case arose from a motor vehicle accident in 2012. William Taylor was driving a vehicle owned and insured by Guy's Seed Company (Guy's Seed); Appellant Mark Raymond was a passenger in the vehicle driven by Taylor. Both Raymond and Taylor were employees of Guy's Seed. Appellee American Mercury Insurance Company (Mercury) issued a commercial automobile insurance policy to Guy's Seed which provided uninsured/under-insured motorist (UM) coverage of $1,000,000 per accident. Larry Bedell was an employee of BlueKnight Energy Partners (BlueKnight); BlueKnight carried a $1,000,000 primary automobile liability policy and a $40,000,000 excess liability policy. Bedell was driving an oil tanker truck, owned by BlueKnight, and attempted to turn in front of the Guy's Seed vehicle causing a collision. The collision caused an immediate explosion, which resulted in Taylor's death and Raymond suffering significant permanent injuries. Raymond qualified as insured under Mercury's UM coverage. Raymond filed suit against Defendants, Bedell and BlueKnight. Mercury investigated and offered the UM policy limits to Raymond's and Taylor's representatives, paying $500,000 to each. Mercury then intervened in Raymond’s court case seeking subrogation from Defendants for the $500,000 payment made to Raymond under the UM policy. Raymond disputed Mercury's right to subrogation, but Defendants refused to settle unless the settlement amount was inclusive of Mercury's disputed subrogation claim. An agreement was reached where Raymond settled with Defendants for a confidential amount greater than the primary insurance liability limits but less than the excess policy; Defendants paid Raymond the amount of the settlement minus the $500,000 claimed by Mercury. The disputed $500,000 was to be held until there was an agreement or court order as to who was entitled to the funds. The question presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s review centered on whether Mercury was entitled to subrogation for the $500,000 paid. The Supreme Court determined that contrary to Mercury's claims, Raymond was not receiving a windfall here. “Mercury was paid a premium for UM protection and Raymond recovered an amount not covering all of his damages within the limits of the primary liability policy and the UM policy. Raymond has also recovered an amount from the tort-feasor's other assets that, combined with the liability and UM funds, covered his damages. It would be unjust to permit Mercury to avoid its liability with its claim that the tort-feasor's other assets, that happened to be an excess liability policy, removed Mercury's liability thus denying Raymond from receiving that for which Mercury was paid a premium.” View "Raymond v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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The constitutionality of section 57 of the Administrative Worker's Compensation Act (AWCA) came before the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Claimant Brandon Gibby injured his right wrist and left knee in 2014 when he fell three to four feet from a pallet jack while in the course and scope of his employment. Employer, Hobby Lobby Stores, provided temporary total disability and medical benefits. However, when Claimant sought permanent partial disability, Employer asserted that the forfeiture provision, section 57 of the (AWCA) prohibited Claimant from receiving any further workers' compensation benefits because he had missed two or more scheduled medical appointments without a valid excuse or notice to his employer. At trial, Claimant attempted to demonstrate extraordinary circumstances for missing three scheduled medical appointments. The administrative law judge found none and denied the request for permanent partial disability despite the fact there was no dispute that Claimant's injury had left him disabled. The Workers' Compensation Commission affirmed. Following a review of the record on appeal, the transcripts of the proceedings below, and the briefs of the parties and amici, the Supreme Court held the forfeiture provision found at section 57 of title 85A violated the adequate remedy provision of Article II, section 6, of the Oklahoma Constitution. The section 57 forfeiture provision was therefore stricken in its entirety. View "Gibby v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims determined Jolid Mackey was a physically impaired person at the time of his last injury to his left shoulder in 2013. His physically impaired status was based on several adjudications of disability that predated the last injury as provided in 85 O.S.2011, section 402(A)(4). The Court further determined that he was permanently totally disabled as a result of combining the previously adjudicated disability with the disability from the last injury. The Court thereupon entered an award against the Multiple Injury Trust Fund (MITF). The Court of Civil Appeals interpreted a proviso in 402(A)(4), as limiting use of previously adjudicated disability for determining combined disability. The Court of Civil Appeals concluded that only previously adjudicated disability in the same body part as affected by the last injury could be combined. Noting that none of Mackey's prior adjudications involved disability to the left shoulder, the Court of Civil Appeals vacated the award against MITF. Certiorari from the Oklahoma Supreme Court was granted to resolve the conflict created by the Court of Civil Appeals opinions in this case and in Multiple Injury Trust Fund v. Wiggins, 2017 OK 76 (decided September 26, 2017). The Supreme Court held the Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims did not err in determining that Mackey had sustained permanent total disability as the result of the combined effect of previously adjudicated disabilities and his last job-related injury in 2013 to his left shoulder. Accordingly, the Court reinstated and sustained the award of permanent total disability against the Multiple Injury Trust Fund. View "Multiple Injury Trust Fund v. Mackey" on Justia Law

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The Workers Compensation Court of Existing Claims ruled Maggie Wiggins was a physically impaired person under 85 O.S.2011, section 402(A)(4), at the time of a job-related injury to her back in 2011. This status was based on a “Crumby” finding of preexisting disability in her back that the Court made in the same proceeding to adjudicate disability for the job-related injury to her back. The Court entered a permanent total disability award against the Multi-Injury Trust Find (MITF) as a result of combining these disabilities. In doing so, the Court acknowledged that Ball v. Multiple Injury Trust Fund, 360 P.3d 499, held a Crumby finding was not a previous adjudication of disability that would qualify a person as a physically impaired person for MITF liability. The Court believed, however, that the Legislature added a proviso to 402(A)(4), after Ball was decided, that allowed use of a Crumby finding as a qualifying previous adjudication, if the Crumby disability was in the same body part as the last injury. The Court of Civil Appeals vacated the award, ruling the proviso in 402(A)(4), only allowed Crumby disability to be combined with last injury disability in the same body part, where the claimant had otherwise satisfied the physically impaired person requirement. Certiorari from the Oklahoma Supreme Court was granted to resolve the conflict created by the Court of Civil Appeals opinions in this case and in Multiple Injury Trust Fund v. Mackey, 2017 OK 75 (decided September 26, 2017). Upon certiorari review, the Supreme Court likewise held Wiggins was not a physically impaired person at the time of her job-related injury and vacated the award against MITF. View "Multiple Injury Trust Fund v. Wiggins" on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari to address whether disputed questions of material fact existed which precluded summary judgment in this case. In 1999, defendant-appellant, James Dalke purchased a 2000 Elliot Solitaire Mobile Home for $46,763. He paid $7,100.00 down, and financed the remaining amount with plaintiff-appellee, Green Tree Servicing, LLC. (Green Tree). The loan was perfected on September 29, 1999, at an 11.25% interest rate over 30 years. This resulted in 360 monthly payments of $387.31 totaling $139,431.60. Consequently, the cost for financing $39,877.00 for a mobile home valued at less than $47,000.00, totaled approximately $146,531.00 when the down payment was included. After making half of the total payments for fifteen years, Dalke did not make six months’ worth of payments from December 2014 to June 2015. Green Tree filed a lawsuit against Dalke, alleging that Dalke owed $49,900.34 for the remaining balance on the mobile home, not including attorney fees and other costs which they also sought. By this time, Dalke would have paid approximately $70,000 for the $39,877.00 he financed. Dalke proceeded pro se, and did not respond to Green Tree’s motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted Green Tree’s motion. Dalke appealed, claiming Green Tree went out of its way to obstruct his rights to pay any arrearages, and misrepresented the facts in the affidavit. Therefore, he contended, material fact questions existed which precluded summary judgment. The Supreme Court agreed that multiple disputed material facts existed in this case, and summary judgment was premature. View "Green Tree Servicing, LLC v. Dalke" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Lyle Corbeil suffered bilateral inguinal hernias at work, filed for workers' compensation benefits, and asked for a contested hearing on the issue of temporary total disability. The administrative law judge determined that petitioner was limited to six weeks of temporary total disability, despite petitioner's contention he suffered two hernias and should have been eligible for twelve weeks total (six for each hernia). Petitioner appealed to the Workers' Compensation Commission, which affirmed the administrative law judge. The question presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court's review was whether the hernia provision of the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act (AWCA), 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 section 61, permitted an award of up to six weeks of temporary total disability (TTD) for each hernia suffered by a claimant, regardless of whether the hernias occurred, or were repaired, simultaneously. The Court held that it did, reversed the Commission's decision and remanded for further proceedings. View "Corbeil v. Emericks Van & Storage" on Justia Law

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Claimant sought permanent total disability benefits from the Multiple Injury Trust Fund. The Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims held that the claimant's combined injuries rendered the claimant permanently totally disabled and awarded benefits. The Multiple Injury Trust Fund appealed. On appeal, the Court of Civil Appeals reversed, finding claimant ineligible to claim benefits against the Multiple Injury Trust Fund as the claimant was not a "physically impaired person" at the time of the claimant's second on-the-job injury. The dispositive issue presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s review was whether claimant met the statutory definition of a "physically impaired person" at the time of the claimant's second on-the-job injury for purposes of determining eligibility for Multiple Injury Trust Fund benefits. As a corollary, the Court considered whether a duly-executed settlement agreement (memorialized on a form prescribed by the Workers' Compensation Court) constituted an adjudication of the claimant's disabilities. The Court answered both questions in the affirmative. View "Multiple Injury Trust Fund v. Garrett" on Justia Law