Justia Oklahoma Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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This legal battle began in 2006 when American Biomedical Group, Inc. (ABGI) and ABG Cattletraq, LLC (Cattletraq) filed a petition in the district court against Techtrol, Inc. and William Ardrey (Defendants); Defendants then filed a counterclaim. ABGI and Cattletraq dismissed their claims and causes of action against Defendants (without prejudice), leaving Defendants' counterclaim pending. Two years later, Defendants filed a petition in the same court against ABGI, Cattletraq, and James Burgess, their sole shareholder and CEO (Plaintiffs). In 2009, Plaintiffs filed another petition alleging that Defendants "wrongfully exercised dominion and control over plaintiffs' personal and intellectual property" and "willfully, deliberately and maliciously converted plaintiffs' personal and intellectual property" for their own benefit. Plaintiffs sought damages based on Defendants' unjust enrichment from the conversion. The district court consolidated the three cases. When the cases were consolidated, Defendants' counterclaim, Defendants' petition alleging abuse of process, and Plaintiffs' petition alleging causes of action for conversion and unjust enrichment remained pending before the district court. In 2014, Defendants moved for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claim for conversion, asserting that Oklahoma did not recognize a tort for conversion of intangible property, and for unjust enrichment, asserting Plaintiffs' claim was precluded because they had an adequate remedy at law for breach of contract. The question this appeal presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether Defendants supported their motion for summary judgment with undisputed, material facts sufficient to warrant the district court granting partial summary adjudication in their favor. After that review, the Court answered in the negative. "Defendants failed to show that they were entitled to summary judgment. Throughout their arguments before the district court and this Court, Defendants rely on allegations which they have failed to allege as undisputed in their motion for summary judgment, which have no supporting evidentiary materials, and which Plaintiffs contest or which Plaintiffs have not admitted." View "American Biomedical Group, Inc. v. Techtrol, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue before the Oklahoma Supreme Court in this case was a challenge to the legal sufficiency of Initiative Petition No. 409. Respondents-proponents Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma and Bryan Kerr filed Initiative Petition No. 409 with the Oklahoma Secretary of State, seeking to amend the Oklahoma Constitution by repealing Article 28 and adopting Article 28A. Article 28A as proposed, would have allowed wine to be sold in grocery stores. Also under the proposed article, retail package stores could sell any and all items that were sold in convenience stores and grocery stores. Small brewers could sell their products at a brewery or festival or trade show and could sell alcoholic beverages by the drink at a restaurant co-located on the premises of the brewery. Petitioners-opponents Oklahoma Grocers Association and Ron Edgmon filed an Application to Assume Original Jurisdiction with the Supreme Court to protest: (1) the constitutionality of the petition; and (2) the statutory sufficiency of the gist of the petition. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the gist of the petition did not fairly describe the proposed constitutional amendment and was invalid. View "In re Initiative Petition No. 409, State Question No. 785" on Justia Law

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Jimmy Pearman, Jr. (Pearman) and Theresa Pearman (Theresa) filed for divorce in 2012. The decree dissolving the marriage was memorialized in 2013, however, the parties continued their litigation over matters of child custody and support of their two children. By 2014, Pearman was awarded exclusive custody of the children and Theresa was granted standard visitation. Pearman became involved with Theresa's roommate, "Tess," which appeared from court records to have been a tumultuous relationship. Incidents in the Spring of 2014 ended with allegations of assault lodged against Pearman, and a trial court hearing Tess's petition for a Protective Order/VPO. Theresa's attorney represented Tess, and most of the hearing concerned many text messages between Theresa and Tess regarding the VPO and their friendship and sex lives. Because of concerns about attorney-client privilege, the text messages were examined by both attorneys during a recess. Pearman's attorney used the text messages to establish the motive for filing VPO as merely an attempt to affect the ex-wife's child custody case. Tess' attorney advised his client to drop the VPO petition, and the trial court granted the subsequent motion to withdraw. When asked to determine the matter frivolous and award attorney fees and costs, the trial court, remarked that, while the whole matter was a soap opera, embarrassing, and absurd, the ex-husband did not show that it was frivolously filed. Consequently, the trial court refused to award attorney fees and costs. Pearman appealed the decision not to grant him fees and costs, arguing this matter was indeed frivolous. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the trial court, but the Supreme Court disagreed, held the matter was indeed frivolously filed and victimless, and that attorney fees and costs should have been awarded. View "Murlin v. Pearman" on Justia Law

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Claimant James Loyd was awarded permanent partial disability benefits after being injured on the job. Loyd did not appeal, and the order became final. Less than a month after such order was issued, Loyd filed a "Form 9" requesting continuing medical maintenance and requesting a portion of his permanent partial disability award be commuted to a lump sum payment. When this request was denied and the denial upheld by the Workers' Compensation Court and Court of Appeals, he appealed. Upon consideration, the Supreme Court hold that a claimant may seek to commute his or her permanent partial disability award after the hearing on permanent partial disability under 85 O.S. 2001 sec. 41(A). Additionally, the Court concluded that because Loyd did not request reservation of continuing medical maintenance and the trial court's order awarding permanent partial disability did not address or reserve the issue of continuing medical maintenance, Loyd's only recourse was to seek continuing medical maintenance through a reopening proceeding under 85 O.S. 2001 sec. 28. View "Loyd v. Michelin North America, Inc." on Justia Law

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Claimant Nancy Bruce worked as a Certified Nurse's Assistant, or "residential life staff aide," for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for twenty-six years. Her duties consisted primarily of lifting clients, cleaning them up, feeding them, and daily care. In 2012, Claimant was injured while lifting one such client. Although her Employer admitted the injury, the trial court denied compensability finding Claimant's employment was not the major cause of her injury. Claimant appealed, and a three-judge panel reversed and found that Claimant's employment was the major cause of the injury to her neck. Employer appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals reversed the order of the three-judge panel. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the three-judge panel's decision finding Claimant's work-related injury was the major cause of Claimant's neck injury was not against the clear weight of the evidence. The Court therefore vacated the Court of appeals' judgment and reinstated the order of the three-judge panel. View "Dept. of Human Svcs v. Bruce" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Cynthia Robinson worked as a Nurse's Aide for Employer Fairview Fellowship Home for Senior Citizens, and was injured in early 2014. Petitioner requested a finding of injury to her neck, left shoulder, and left knee, as well as temporary total disability. Employer admitted that she was an employee on the date of the accident but denied that her injury arose out of and in the course of her employment. Petitioner argued that if her injury was not compensable, then 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 section 2(13) was an unconstitutional special law and unconstitutionally denied her a remedy for her injury. The ALJ found Petitioner's injury was not in the course and scope of employment, and thus, not compensable. The ALJ declined to address Petitioner's constitutional arguments. Petitioner appealed to the Workers' Compensation Commission, and the Commission affirmed the decision of the ALJ. After Petitioner filed her Petition for Certiorari in this Court, the Attorney General filed notice of his intent to provide his views concerning the authority of the Workers' Compensation Commission to address constitutional issues and the ability of the courts to review those decisions. The Supreme Court concluded that the Workers' Compensation Commission had the power to determine whether a provision of Title 85A was being unconstitutionally applied to a particular party in a proceeding before the Commission. The Court of Civil Appeals' opinion in this case was vacated, the Commission's decision in this case was vacated and the judgment was reversed and remanded for a new hearing before the assigned ALJ. View "Robinson v. Fairview Fellowship Home for Senior Citizens, Inc." on Justia Law

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This was a medical malpractice case premised in part on the doctrine of informed consent. Appellant Teresa Allen swallowed a small nail. She went to Duncan Regional Hospital's emergency room. Appellee John Harrison, D.O., emergency room physician (Physician), examined Allen. An X-ray confirmed the presence of a foreign body in Allen's stomach, just below the diaphragm. Based on Physician's assessment and clinical judgment, Physician discharged Allen prescribing: (1) "a high-fiber diet to let the nail pass;" (2) return to the hospital if she had any problems; and (3) follow up with her family doctor in three days. A few days later following severe vomiting, Allen went to the emergency room at Southwestern Hospital in Lawton. That same day, the hospital performed emergency surgery to remove the ingested nail from Allen's intestines. At that time, Allen was treated for a perforated and infected bowel. In addition, Allen endured two additional surgeries to treat the complications that arose from the initial surgery. Allen sued Duncan Regional Hospital and Physician for the defendants' alleged medical negligence and failure to obtain Allen's informed consent. Specifically, Allen contended that Physician failed to disclose the potential risk in letting the nail pass through her digestive system as well as the alternatives to his recommended course of treatment. Had Physician effectively discharged his duty to disclose, Allen would have "chosen the option of no treatment or a different course of treatment." The issue presented on certiorari review was whether the doctrine of informed consent required a physician to obtain the patient's consent before implementing a nonsurgical or noninvasive course of treatment. "Inherent in the question presented, is whether a physician-in addition to discussing with the patient treatment alternatives that the physician recommends-should discuss medically reasonable alternatives that the physician does not recommend." After review of the trial court record, the Oklahoma Supreme Court answered both of those questions in the affirmative. View "Allen v. Harrison" on Justia Law

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In 2007, Lahoma Pierson Hall (Ms. Hall) died in the care of hospice after a seven-day stay in AHS Tulsa Regional Medical Center (Hospital). On March 20, 2009, Appellants Kenneth Pierson, and Paula Taylor, (Ms. Hall's son and granddaughter) filed a petition (Pierson I), against the Hospital stating claims on their own behalf. After amending the petition several times, Appellants filed their fourth amended petition on October 23, 2009. Appellants stated therein "[t]he plaintiffs are not pleading to have the court act on Ms. Lahoma Hall's rights for relief for actions such as medical malpractice or wrongful death." On February 24, 2010, the trial court dismissed the petition in Pierson I without prejudice for failure to state a claim. Appellants filed "Pierson II" in 2012, appealing the dismissal of their wrongful death case. In early 2013, the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the trial court's dismissal, noting that "[e]ven if the Third Amended Petition relates back to the original petition, the original petition was filed more than two years after Decedent's death. Therefore, Appellant's wrongful death action is barred by the two-year statute of limitations." The questions presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court's review were whether the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure applied to state court actions and whether the Appellees, judges on the Court of Civil Appeals, were immune from suit. The Court answered the first question in the negative and the second in the affirmative. View "Pierson v. Joplin" on Justia Law

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In 2014, Petitioner Theresa Maxwell suffered an injury to her knee while working for her Employer, Respondent Sprint PCS. She promptly notified her Employer and timely filed a CC-Form-3 with the Workers' Compensation Commission. The Employer admitted Petitioner's injury to her knee was compensable, and she had surgery to repair a tendon in her knee. Petitioner also received temporary total disability benefits from February 6, 2014, until February 24, 2014. After reaching maximum medical improvement on July 2, 2014, she returned to her pre-injury position with her employer earning her pre-injury wages. Later that year, Petitioner filed a request for a contested hearing on the issue of permanent partial disability. The ALJ concluded that Petitioner sustained 2% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole as a result of the injury to her knee and that the rate of compensation was $323.00 for a total award of $2,261.00. However, because she returned to her pre-injury position and pay, the ALJ ordered the award of benefits be deferred at a rate of $323.00 beginning July 2, 2014, for every week Petitioner worked in her pre-injury or equivalent job. Petitioner appealed the order, and the Workers' Compensation Commission sitting en banc affirmed. The Supreme Court concluded that scheduled members are exempt from the AMA Guides under the AWCA. The Court also held that the permanent partial disability deferral provision of 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 sec. 45(C)(5) was an unconstitutional violation of due process under Art. 2, section 7.51 Sections 45(C)(5)(a-e) were invalid and stricken. The deferral of permanent partial disability benefits to a subclass of injured workers under 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 sec. 46(C) was an unconstitutional special law under Art. 5, sec. 59.52. Only that portion of Section 46(C) that made the deferral provision applicable to injuries to the body as a whole or "other cases" was invalid. Any definitional provisions found in 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 section 2, as were deemed invalid to the extent they were inconsistent with the Court's opinion with regard to this matter. On remand, the Commission, through its ALJs, were mandated to take all action necessary to implement the pronouncement made by this case. View "Maxwell v. Sprint PCS" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant and Oklahoma taxpayer Robert Dani claimed certain property, which had previously been handed over to the State Treasurer pursuant to the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act (UUPA), because it was presumed abandoned. This property consisted of $19.56, received in 2004 and submitted by Chevron/Texaco, as well as $150.00, received in 2013 and submitted by Office Depot, Inc. Appellant filed a claim for this property on or about January 16, 2014. His claim was approved, and a check was issued to Appellant for $169.56 on April 17, 2014. On June 22, 2015, Appellant filed suit against the State, seeking damages, declaratory relief, and injunctive relief, concerning the constitutionality and administration of the UUPA. He also alleged the UUPA was a "Ponzi scheme," again focusing on the constitutionality of the UUPA. The case was dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, and Appellant appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Dani v. Miller" on Justia Law
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