Justia Oklahoma Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Petitioner Baby F., through his attorney, requested that the Oklahoma Supreme Court assume original jurisdiction and issue a writ of prohibition forbidding the trial court from authorizing a change in his resuscitation status from full code to allow-natural-death pursuant to 10A O.S. 2011 section 1-3-102(C)(2). Baby F was one of several siblings the State sought to take into its emergency custody in an Application to Take Minor Children Into Emergency Custody on April 4, 2013. At that time, three-month-old Baby F had allegedly been diagnosed with several anomalies and genetic issues. At the hearing, Baby F's attending doctor testified as to Baby F's deteriorating condition, noting the numerous conditions identified when Baby F was born prematurely, and his continued respiratory troubles. According to the doctor, Baby F's acute respiratory events began to increase over time, necessitating several transfers to another facility, and the staff began to feel conflicted that they might be doing more to Baby F than for Baby F. Baby F filed an application to assume original jurisdiction and petition for a writ of prohibition, however, while this original action was pending, the State received a letter from Baby F's physician of record at The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center, stating that Baby F's condition had deteriorated to the point where he could not survive without being in a medically induced coma and medically paralyzed on a life supporting ventilator, and there was no reason to suspect the situation would improve. The letter noted the child was suffering and that further life sustaining therapy was not appropriate. An emergency hearing was held, and based on the doctor's testimony, the State moved to dismiss Baby F. from a deprived petition and requested that the court place the child in the custody of his mother and father for purpose of their consent to the do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order, thereby negating the need for the trial court's approval under 10A O.S. 2011 sec. 1-3-102(C)(2). The State also requested the court vacate the stay it previously issued in order to proceed. The trial court vacated its previous stay and dismissed the deprived child proceeding only as to Baby F and returned Baby F to his parents' custody. Baby F died on January 10, 2015. Petitioner alleged that by failing to provide for an evidentiary standard and fact-finding, 10A O.S. 2011 sec. 1-3-102(C)(2) violated the requirements of substantive due process. The Supreme Court agreed, and determined: 1) that though Petitioner died during the pendency of these proceedings, this case fell within recognized exceptions to the mootness doctrine; and 2) in order to comply with the requirements of due process, before a withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment or the denial of the administration of cardiopulmonary resuscitation on behalf of a child in DHS custody could be authorized under 10A O.S. 2011 sec. 1-3-102(C)(2), the court must determine by clear and convincing evidence that doing so is in the best interest of the child. View "Baby F v. Oklahoma County Dist. Ct." on Justia Law

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Taxpayers Don and Mary Frankenberg made improvements to their home in 2001. The Garvin County Assessor did not increase the fair cash value of the property for the improvements until 2012 when she visually inspected the property and discovered the improvements. The Assessor notified the Taxpayers of a new assessed fair cash value, which was a substantial increase from the previous valuation in 1999. The Taxpayers protested the assessment, arguing that under Art. X, section 8B of the Oklahoma Constitution, the fair cash value of the property could not be increased more than 5% in any year. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Taxpayers, and the Assessor appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court found the exception to the 5% cap for improvements to a property existed only for the year the improvements were made to the property and did not apply in the year when the Assessor first discovers the improvements. Accordingly, the Court affirmed. View "Frankenberg v. Strickland" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Denise Schweigert (Mother) filed a petition for dissolution of her marriage to Tony Schweigert (Father) and an application for a temporary order. Mother sought both temporary and permanent custody of the couple's two children with supervised visitation with Father. Father was personally served the summons, the petition for dissolution of marriage, the application for a temporary order, and the order for hearing. Father appeared at the hearing on August 9, 2010. However, he did not file an answer or entry of appearance. Approximately one year later, the August 9, 2010 order was filed, giving Mother temporary custody of the children, allowing Father supervised visitation as agreed by the parties, and setting the temporary child support of $283.01 per month. The temporary order acknowledged that the "Respondent, TONY W. SCHWEIGERT, appear[ed] in person and Pro se" at the hearing. The record did not show that Father saw the temporary order or had a chance to contest its contents before it was filed. The record also did not show that a copy of the temporary order was ever sent to Father. Mother did not file a motion for default, and neither the decree nor any other document in the record said anything about any attempt to serve Father with notice of the hearing on the default judgment or whether his address was unknown. Nonetheless, Mother was granted a divorce, custody of the minor children with supervised visitation with Father, and child support of $283.01. Further, neither the transcript of the hearing for a temporary order nor the transcript of the 2011 hearing was designated for inclusion in the record. In 2013, Father filed a motion to vacate based on fraud and lack of due process. He contended that Mother defrauded him into not filing an answer and that he did not receive notice of the default hearing as required by Rule 10. At the hearing on the motion to vacate the default judgment, the district court stated: "I don't think that just appearing in court triggers making an appearance." A district court order was filed stating the matter came before the judge on October 22, 2013, denying the motion to vacate and finding "Respondent failed to meet Rule 10 requirement of entry, therefore Petitioner was not required to provide notice of default hearing to Respondent." Respondent appealed the denial of the motion to vacate, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the judgment. The dispositive question raised for the Oklahoma Supreme Court's review was whether a party must file a motion for default and give the adverse party notice under Rule 10 of the Rules for District Courts, 12 O.S.2011, ch. 2, app., when the adverse party fails to file an answer or an entry of appearance but physically appears at a hearing. The Court answered "yes," reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Schweigert v. Schweigert" on Justia Law

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Wilson Paving & Excavating, Inc. was one of several subcontractors retained to perform services in connection with a renovation project at Sand Springs Memorial Stadium at Charles Page High School. Specifically, Wilson Paving contracted to dig trenches and lay pipe for a storm drainage system being installed under the athletic field. Wilson Paving utilized a local staffing agency, Labor Ready, to secure temporary workers to assist on the project. Steven Broom went to the offices of Labor Ready to obtain employment. Broom was directed by Labor Ready to work with Wilson Paving at Sand Springs High School. He reported to the high school and, at the instruction of Wilson Paving, began work laying pipe. The trench in which Broom was working collapsed twice - the first time covering him in dirt to his waist and the second time covering him in dirt to his neck. People on the job site freed Broom from the neck to the waist while waiting on emergency personnel to arrive. Once on the scene, emergency personnel could not enter the trench to rescue Broom until the trench was safely reinforced. During this time, Broom remained buried from the waist down. Emergency personnel eventually removed Broom from the trench, and he was transported to the hospital where he was treated for serious injuries, including rib fractures, collapsed lungs, pulmonary contusions, blood within the chest, fluid around the spleen and kidney, and a left kidney laceration. Before the trench collapsed, one of Wilson Paving's employees, Jack Bailey, was using a backhoe to dig the trench and to retrieve pipe from an area adjacent to the trench. Wilson Paving believed the trench collapse was due to the work of another contractor who had allegedly removed a monument and flag pole near the area of the collapse but failed to alert Bailey of such before he began digging the trench. Broom pursued and received workers' compensation benefits from Labor Ready for the injuries he sustained in the accident. Broom also sued Wilson Paving for his injuries in a third-party action to collect for his injuries as a result of Wilson's employee. The trial court found in favor of Broom and entered judgment against Wilson Paving for $1,150,000.00. Broom then sought post-judgment garnishment of Wilson Paving's Commercial General Liability Policy issued by Mid-Continent Casualty Company. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Mid-Continent, finding that coverage for Broom's injuries was precluded under the "earth movement" exclusion clause in Mid-Continent's policy. The Court of Civil Appeals found that the earth movement exclusion clause did not prevent coverage for Broom's injuries, but affirmed summary judgment on different grounds. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that Mid-Continent's Commercial General Liability Policy provided coverage for Broom's injuries. View "Broom v. Wilson Paving & Excavating" on Justia Law

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In 2013, the City of Ada, Oklahoma passed Ordinance No. 13-02 to annex certain real property, located in Township 3 North, Range 6 East of the Indian Base and Meridian, Pontotoc County, Oklahoma, into its corporate city limits. Petitioners were residents of Pontotoc County, Oklahoma, who owned property within the annexed territory. They sought to set aside the ordinance, and City denied their request. They then filed their Petition for Declaratory Judgment and in the Alternative, for Detachment of Municipal Territory, seeking a determination that the City lacked jurisdiction to pass the ordinance due to lack of compliance with 11 O.S. 2011 sec. 21-103. The trial court denied Petitioners' request for relief but filed its Order Certifying Interlocutory Order for Immediate Appeal. The question this case presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court's review centered on whether the City fully complied with the Oklahoma annexation statutes when it annexed that territory near its city limits. The Court held that substantial compliance with the notice requirements was not sufficient under the applicable statutes in this case and reversed. View "In re: Detachment of Municipal Territory from the City of Ada" on Justia Law

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The question this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether certain provisions of The Governmental Tort Claims Act (GTCA), specifically 51 O.S. 2011 sections 158(E) & 162(D), permitted the State of Oklahoma or a political subdivision to set off from liability amounts previously paid to a GTCA tort claimant from the claimant's own insurer, thereby abrogating the collateral source rule for claims arising under the GTCA with respect to these insurance benefits. Plaintiff-appellee Carolyn Mariani was injured when her vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer operated by an employee of defendant-appellant Oklahoma ex rel. Oklahoma State University. Mariani filed suit under the GTCA, alleging the driver's negligence, that the driver was an employee of the State of Oklahoma, and that the employee was acting within the scope of his employment when the negligent acts occurred. Mariani admitted that her insurer, AAA, had compensated her in underinsured/uninsured (UM) motorist benefits and medical payment coverage. The State moved for an interlocutory order ruling it had the right to set off Mariani's insurance receipts from its total liability pursuant to 51 O.S. 2011 sections 158(E) & 162(D). Mariani objected, and the trial court issued an interlocutory order denying the State's motion for the right to a setoff. The trial court certified its order for immediate review and the State filed a Petition for Certiorari. The Supreme Court denied the State's petition to review the interlocutory order. At trial, the State once again asserted it was entitled to a setoff of Mariani's insurance benefits pursuant to the GTCA. The State renewed its motion for a setoff at the conclusion of evidence, but the trial court denied the State's renewed motion. The Supreme Court, after review, affirmed the trial court: "[a]n interpretation that Sections 158(E) and 162(D) serve to abrogate the collateral source rule for claims under the GTCA, allowing the State to set off collateral source benefits received by claimants from those claimants' own insurers, punishes those claimants for their foresight in procuring coverage. Such an interpretation is also contrary to the plain meaning of the sections when read in their entirety and in the context of the GTCA itself. We will not carve out an exception to the collateral source rule where the plain and clear language of the law does not provide for one." View "Mariani v. Oklahoma ex rel. Oklahoma State Univ." on Justia Law

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After being awarded benefits for injury and re-injury in 1997 and in 2000, claimant-respondent Anthony Cellino filed a request in 2003 for payment of principal and post award interest. He also sought certification for a class action with the Workers' Compensation Court to establish a class of others who had claims of unpaid interest on benefits awarded against The Multiple Injury Trust Fund after May 9, 1996. From 2003 until 2009, nothing was filed in the case. In August 2009, the Multiple Injury Trust Fund filed a motion for summary judgment arguing for dismissal for failure to prosecute. After the trial court granted the motion, a three-judge panel reversed and remanded. The trial court subsequently certified the class and the three-judge panel affirmed in part and modified in part the certification of the class. The issue left for the Supreme Court's review was whether claimant's request for class certification is a "claim for compensation" and subject to a five-year statute of limitations. Upon review, the Court concluded that the request was indeed a claim for compensation, and that claimant failed to diligently prosecute this claim. View "Multiple Injury Trust Fund v. Cellino" on Justia Law

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The State started forefeiture proceedings against a 2011 Honda following a drug arrest. Ashley Bickle was the titled owner of the car, and she was a passenger in the car at the time drugs were found. Craig and Pam Bickle were Ashley's parents and were also listed on the title as owners of the Honda. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Craig and Pam Bickle, finding that the two were entitled to the "innocent owner defense" and possession of the Honda. The Court of Civil Appeals, on de novo review, reversed and remanded for further proceedings. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded that the legislature did not intend for innocent owners to be deprived of their ownership rights by the actions of a guilty party in a vehicle forfeiture proceeding. The statute does not address the specific set of facts presented by this appeal; it addressed a scenario where the owner commits the offense making the vehicle subject to forfeiture. The Court reversed the appellate court and reinstated the judgment of the district court. View "Oklahoma ex rel. Harris v. 2011 Honda" on Justia Law

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In November 2005, petitioner Barbara Shepard was working for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections when she was injured. The Workers' Compensation Court found that Shepard had sustained a permanent partial disability. The court ordered the respondent Department of Corrections and/or its insurance carrier "to provide the claimant with reasonable and necessary continuing medical maintenance limited to prescription medications and four (4) visits per year to monitor same with Dr. M." There was no limit imposed on the doctor's exercise of a medical judgment as to which prescriptions were needed by Shepard, except those that were medically reasonable and necessary. The court also directed payment of reasonable and necessary medical expenses incurred by Shepard as a result of her injury. In 2010, Shepard moved to reopen her claim based upon a change of condition for the worse. In 2011, the Workers' Compensation Court reopened the claim and determined that Shepard had a change of condition for the worse and allowed additional compensation for the worsening of her left shoulder. The order of the Workers' Compensation Court en banc stated that respondent/insurance carrier "shall pay all reasonable and necessary medical expenses incurred by claimant as a result of said injury through the date of this order." The previous award of continuing medical maintenance was not disturbed by the order that reopened her claim. The order on reopening was appealed to the Court en banc which affirmed in part and modified in part the previous order. In 2011, the Court en banc modified a provision relating to temporary total disability, and two provisions of attorney's fees. The award of reasonable and necessary medical expenses was not modified. The previous award of continuing medical maintenance was not disturbed. In 2012, Respondents sought a hearing to "discuss prescriptions." They objected one of Dr. M.'s medical reports. The court ordered Shepard to submit to a medical examination by Dr. Y., and directed this doctor to determine whether Shepard needed pain management and the nature and extent of necessary continuing medical maintenance. The order also directed Dr. Y. to determine if Shepard's current continuing medical maintenance by Dr. M. was within the Oklahoma Treatment Guidelines. The court also directed Dr. Y. to determine whether Shepard's continuing medical maintenance was within the Oklahoma Treatment Guidelines; and if not, to advise whether her continuing medical maintenance in her best interest. Respondents then sought an order that would have the effect of terminating Shepard's medical prescriptions. In June 2014, the Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims ordered that Dr. M. could provide continuing medical maintenance to the Shepard. In July 2014, Shepard sought review of this decision by by the Supreme Court, arguing that respondents made an impermissible retroactive application of a new workers' compensation law. Respondents argued that application of the new law to medical benefits currently being provided was not a retroactive application, and that even if the application was a retroactive application, such application was permissible. The Supreme Court held that 85 O.S.2011 section 326(G) and the statutorily incorporated Guidelines were unconstitutionally applied retroactively to employee's previous award for medical treatment that predated section 326. View "Shepard v. Dept. of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) terminated the employment of petitioner Chester Rouse after several years of evaluations of inefficiency, incompetence, and misconduct, and after three significant events which occurred at its coal fired plant. Rouse appealed the termination to the Oklahoma Merit Protection Commission (OMPC) and then to the district court. The administrative appeal and the district court appeal each resulted in the affirmation of the termination. Rouse appealed to the Supreme Court, raising 16 issues of alleged error, some of which were found by the Court to be redundant, repetitive, related, or were not briefed on appeal. The Court consolidated the issues into four broader issues: (1) the trial court erred in its statutory interpretation of 74 O.S. 2011 section 840-6.5; (2) the trial court erred in determining that the reasons for termination were not pretextual or post hoc rationalizations; (3) the trial court erred in determining that plaintiff was estopped from challenging the level of discipline imposed (termination); and (4) its review of OMPC's ruling and the admission of certain evidence. After consideration of these issues, the Supreme Court found no reversible error, and affirmed the trial court. View "Rouse v. Oklahoma Merit Protection Comm'n" on Justia Law