Justia Oklahoma Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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R.V. Bebout died testate on March 30, 1980, as a resident of Tarrant County, Texas. His Last Will and Testament, dated March 8, 1977, was admitted in the Probate Court of Tarrant County, Texas. At the time of his death, Bebout owned mineral interests in Canadian County, Oklahoma. On September 30, 1981, an ancillary Petition for Probate of Foreign Will was filed in the District Court of Canadian County. Bebout's will provided that his estate was to be distributed in trust to his wife, if she survived him. In the event his wife predeceased him, which she did, his will provided that one-half of his estate was to be distributed to his daughter, Betty Ewell, and one-half to his granddaughter, Betsy Kuykendall. The will made no mention of Bebout's son, Russell Bebout, who had predeceased him, or Bebout's grandsons, John Bebout and James Bebout (Grandsons). The Final Order in the Estate of R.V. Bebout, filed in 1982, distributed his mineral interests to his daughter and granddaughter in equal shares pursuant to the terms of his will. In 2014, the grandsons filed this action in Canadian County, alleging that the mineral interest distribution was void to the extent it failed to distribute the mineral interests one-quarter each to his grandsons who were pretermitted heirs under the will. Citing the Oklahoma Supreme Court's decision in “Booth v. McKnight,” (70 P.3d 855 (2003)), the District Court agreed with the grandsons and found the Final Order issued in 1982 was void on its face for lack of proper notice to the grandsons. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that notice to the grandsons was constitutionally sufficient, and thus, the Final Order was not void for lack of proper notice. Grandsons' challenge to the Final Order more than thirty years later was deemed untimely. View "Bebout v. Ewell" on Justia Law
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A delay of approximately sixteen months occurred between the arrest of the plaintiff-appellee Nathan Nichols, Jr. for driving under the influence and the administrative hearing resulting in revocation of his driver's license. Certiorari was granted to address a single issue: whether the delay constituted a violation of the constitutional right to a speedy trial guaranteed by the Oklahoma Constitution Article 2, Section 6.1. The trial court set aside the revocation order and reinstated Nichols' driving privileges. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed. Other than funding and personnel constraints, the Department presented no viable reason for the delay. Under the facts of this case, the Supreme Court held that the driver's right to a speedy hearing was violated, and ordered reinstatement of his driving privileges. View "Nichols v. Oklahoma ex. rel. Dept. of Public Safety" 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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Appellant John Doe filed suit against Appellees, a church and its minister, alleging torts and breach of contract after he was baptized and notice of his baptism was published on the internet, resulting in his alleged kidnapping and torture by extremists while travelling in Syria. The trial court sustained Appellees' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Appellant appealed. The question presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s review was whether the church autonomy doctrine, rooted in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, barred the courts from considering Appellant’s claims against Defendants-Appellees. The Supreme Court held that it does. View "Doe v. First Presbyterian Church U.S.A. of Tulsa" on Justia Law
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Petitioner Rodney Stanley Brown was employed by Respondent Claims Management Resources (CMR) as a claims adjuster. Brown suffered personal injury to his left knee. At the time Brown was injured, he finished his workday, clocked out, was leaving the office for the day when he fell while descending an interior stairwell. Brown's work area was on the second floor of the building where he worked, and CMR occupied the entire floor. Brown was unable to conclusively identify any factor that might have caused his fall. While admitting an injury occurred, CMR asserted Brown's injury was not compensable within the meaning of the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act (AWCA). A hearing on the matter was held before the Administrative Law Judge, and after considering the parties' stipulations, evidence, and arguments, the Administrative Law Judge concluded that Brown had failed to meet his burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that he suffered a compensable injury within the meaning of the AWCA. The Supreme Court concluded after its review that Brown was acting in the course and scope of his employment, and his injury was a compensable injury. The Workers' Compensation Commission’s interpretation of 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 sections 2(9) & (13) was legally incorrect and its order denying compensability was clearly erroneous in view of the competent evidence presented. Because relief was available on alternative grounds, the Court did not reach the constitutional issues presented. View "Brown v. Claims Management Resources, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant Century Surety Company (Century) issued a Commercial Lines Policy to Plaintiff Siloam Springs Hotel, L.L.C. (Siloam). This policy included general liability insurance coverage of Siloam's hotel in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, for the policy period from November 13, 2012, through November 13, 2013. The insuring agreement of the general liability coverage form provided that Century would pay sums the insured was legally obligated to pay as damages because of bodily injury to which the insurance applies and that Century would have the right and duty to defend the insured against any suit seeking such damages. On January 17, 2013, several guests inside of the hotel allegedly suffered bodily injury due to carbon monoxide poisoning. The carbon monoxide allegedly escaped into the air due to leakage from the hotel's indoor swimming pool heater. Siloam sought coverage under its policy from Century, which Century denied based on an Indoor Air Exclusion at issue. The United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma certified a single question of Oklahoma law to the Oklahoma Supreme Court under the Revised Uniform Certification of Questions of Law Act, 20 O.S. 2011 sections 1601-1611: “Does the public policy of the State of Oklahoma prohibit enforcement of the Indoor Air Exclusion, which provides that the insurance afforded by the policy does not apply to ‘Bodily injury', 'property damage', or 'personal and advertising injury' arising out of, caused by, or alleging to be contributed to in any way by any toxic, hazardous, noxious, irritating pathogenic or allergen qualities or characteristics of indoor air regardless of cause?” The Oklahoma Supreme Court answered the question in the negative. View "Siloam Springs Hotel, LLC v. Century Surety Co." on Justia Law

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Prior to filing condemnation proceedings the Appellee Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) offered Appellants, Cedars Group, L.L.C., A. Sam Coury and Bush, Ltd. d/b/a Deer Creek Texaco, (collectively, Coury Defendants), $562,500.00 for the acquisition of certain real property. The offer was not accepted and ODOT commenced two condemnation proceedings. In one, a commissioners' report estimated the value of just compensation for the property to be $285,000.00. In the second proceeding, the value of just compensation was estimated as $177,500.00. The combined value of the two commissioners' awards totaled $462,500.00. The Coury Defendants hired Gregg Renegar's law firm to provide representation in the condemnation proceedings. Pursuant to the firm’s attorney-client agreement, the Coury Defendants agreed to pay forty percent of the difference between an award and jury verdict, plus any attorney’s fees allowed by the court. A jury trial was held, and the jury awarded just compensation of $525,000 for the two tracts. Defendants applied for attorney fees. The trial court determined Defendants were not entitled to an award of fees because they never actually incurred any. In the end, the trial court awarded appraisal fees but denied reasonable attorney, engineering and expert witness fees, costs and expenses of Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part; the case was remanded for a determination of reasonable attorney fees, engineering and expert witness fees, and costs. View "Oklahoma ex rel. Dept. of Trans. v. Cedars Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Malinda Falcone brought an insurance claim against defendants-appellees for payment of her emergency room medical expenses. Her claim was made pursuant to the Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM) provisions of her mother's automobile insurance policy following the injuries she sustained as a passenger in her mother's car when an uninsured driver ran a stop sign and collided with them. Defendants initially questioned the decision to refer Plaintiff to the level 2 trauma center of the emergency room and refused to pay the bill Plaintiff received from the OU Medical Center trauma center. After nearly a year of offers and rejections, Plaintiff sued for breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing for failing to pay her trauma room "compensatory damages" as required under the policy. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants and denied Plaintiff's motion for new trial. After review, the Supreme Court held that it was a question for the trier of fact whether defendants showed a lack of good faith in handling Plaintiff's claim for payment. The trial court erred in granting summary judgment in defendants' favor, holding as a matter of law that defendants did not commit the tort of bad faith. View "Falcone v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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After the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision (Board) began investigating plaintiff-appellant, Dr. Steven Anagnost, he filed a lawsuit against several doctors and their professional companies (collectively, defendants).Anagnost alleged negligence, abuse of process, tortious interference with business relations, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and defamation. When Anagnost discovered additional information from the Board's file, he filed an amended petition asserting additional claims against the Board and certain Board members. The amended petition was filed after the newly enacted Oklahoma Citizens Participation Act, (the OCPA) became effective. The defendants sought dismissal of the lawsuit pursuant to the new dismissal provisions of the OCPA. The trial court applied the OCPA, and dismissed the negligence claims against the defendants, but denied all other requested relief. The defendants appealed and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded with directions. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari to address the dispositive issue of whether the OCPA could be applied retroactively. The Court held that it could not. View "Anagnost v. Tomecek" on Justia Law