Perry v. City of Norman

According to appellant Robert Perry, he and his friends attended the Norman Music Festival in 2013. At approximately 2:00 a.m. on the early morning of April 27, 2013, Perry and his friends left the Festival on bicycles to go home. On the way home, a Norman police officer, also on a bicycle, approached Perry's friends. The officer began issuing citations to Perry's friends for running a stop sign on their bicycles. The officer also asked Perry if he was interfering with the traffic stop. Perry responded that he was just waiting for his friends so they could continue home. The officer then rapidly approached Perry and threw his arm, with nightstick in hand, around Perry's throat and placed him in a choke hold with extreme force to his neck. Perry, frightened, began fighting for air and struggled to get out of the choke hold in order to breathe. As more police officers arrived at the scene, they slammed Perry over onto his stomach with several officers' knees and elbows pressed into his back and limbs, forcing him to the ground. Perry had committed no crime and was not resisting arrest. While on the ground, an officer grabbed Perry's arm and violently and quickly twisted it back causing the bone behind his elbow to sustain a large fracture. Perry eventually became unconscious from the shock of the fracture and the lack of air due to the choke hold. The City successfully moved to dismiss the case, and Perry appealed. Perry argued that the Supreme Court's holding in "Bosh v. Cherokee County Governmental Building Authority,"305 P.3d 994, applied to this case and the trial court erred in dismissing his lawsuit. The City argued that "Bosh" did not apply because Perry had a remedy available pursuant to the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act (OGTCA). "The OGTCA cannot be construed as immunizing the state completely from all liability for violations of the constitutional rights of its citizens. To do so, would not only fail to conform to established precedent which refused to construe the OGTCA as providing blanket immunity, but would also render the Constitutional protections afforded the citizens of this State as ineffective." However, the Supreme Court held that under Bosh, claims for excessive force against a municipality may not be brought against a governmental entity when a cause of action under the OGTCA is available. Because appellant did not seek relief for his injuries under the OGTCA, the trial court did not err in dismissing his case. View "Perry v. City of Norman" on Justia Law

Vandelay Entertainment, LLC v. Fallin

Vandelay Entertainment, LLC d.b.a. The Lost Ogle filed suit in district court to obtain records that the Governor withheld when responding to Vandelay's Open Records Act request. The district court ruled the Governor had a common law privilege to withhold the records in question. In conclusion, we hold that the trial court correctly ruled that the Governor has a privilege to protect confidential advice solicited or received from "senior executive branch officials" for use in deliberating policy and making discretionary decisions. We disagree, however, with the trial court's conclusion that this privilege rests solely upon common law. We hold that this privilege is a "power properly belonging" to the Governor's constitutional office as head of the executive branch and is protected by the separation of powers clause in Article 4, section 1. The need for confidential advice from "senior executive branch officials" for use in the Governor's deliberations and decision-making is "essential to the existence, dignity and functions" of the executive branch. Also, the need to protect such confidential advice is so ultimately connected and bound up with the executive function that the right to regulate disclosure of such confidential advice by way of a privilege naturally and logically belongs to the executive branch. This privilege is not absolute, however, and is subject to the check and balance of in camera judicial review, in lieu of legislatively-mandated public disclosure. The Governor has the burden upon in camera judicial review to demonstrate that any material relating to such confidential advice satisfies the criteria set forth in this opinion. Even confidential advice that satisfies this criteria can be subject to disclosure where (1) the requesting party can show a substantial or compelling need for disclosure and (2) the need for disclosure outweighs the public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of the advice. View "Vandelay Entertainment, LLC v. Fallin" on Justia Law

Tucker v. Cochran Firm-Criminal Defense Birmingham, LLC

The City of Oklahoma City charged Christopher Tucker with municipal misdemeanor offenses of interfering with official process, obstructing an officer, and failing to obey lawful commands of an officer. Tucker signed an agreement for the Cochran Firm-Criminal Defense, Birmingham, L.L.C. to provide him with legal representation for his scheduled trial in October of 2010. Tucker was found guilty of a municipal charge. Tucker alleged that the firm's Case Manager informed him that the law firm would engage in a four to five-day trial to defend him, the law firm would provide an experienced trial lawyer with twenty to thirty years of experience to represent him at trial, and that the law firm "had attorneys who were licensed to practice in Oklahoma and who would in fact defend the Plaintiff in trial . . . ." He alleged that these statements were untrue and were made to fraudulently induce him to enter into an agreement for legal services and to pay "outrageous fees." From Tucker's complaint, he alleged: (1) the firm required a non-refundable retainer of $13,690.00 for legal representation for the trial; (2) after he signed the agreement, the Cochran Firm informed him that a specific attorney would represent him but that another showed up at trial; (3) the morning of his trial was the first time he met the attorney who actually represented him at his trial; and (4) the firm failed to properly represent him. After filing an amended motion to dismiss, the trial court determined that the forum-selection clause in the retainer agreement should be judicially enforced. The trial court also determined that enforcement of a forum-selection clause would not be unfair or unreasonable under the circumstances. The trial court dismissed the action for improper venue. Tucker appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals concluded that the forum-selection clause should not have been enforced, reversed the trial court's order dismissing his claims, and remanded the matter for further proceedings in the District Court. The law firm petitioned for certiorari. After review, the Supreme Court concluded: (1) when a parties' agreement has an interstate forum-selection clause and a party seeks its judicial enforcement in an Oklahoma District Court by seeking dismissal of the Oklahoma proceeding, then the procedure for its enforcement is by a motion pursuant to 12 O.S. section 2012(B)(6), or Rule 13 motion for summary judgment; and (2) an interstate forum-selection clause is separable from the contract in which it appears, and its validity like any other provision in a contract is subject to the requirements of a valid contract. The appellate court's decision was vacated and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Tucker v. Cochran Firm-Criminal Defense Birmingham, LLC" on Justia Law

Montgomery v. Potter

This appeal stemmed from an action for auto negligence arising out of injuries sustained by Plaintiffs Rachael Montgomery and her three year old son, Noah Orcutt. Montgomery was rear-ended by Defendant Morgan Potter, who claims that her car brakes failed. As a result of Defendant's negligence, Montgomery claimed she sustained a severe back injury that required surgery. Among other damages sought Montgomery sought damages for her pain and suffering. Montgomery was an uninsured driver at the time of the accident. Citing 47 O.S. Supp. 2011, section 7-116, which prevents uninsured motorists from recovering certain non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, Defendant denied that Montgomery was entitled to damages for pain and suffering. Plaintiffs argued on appeal that section 7-116 was a special law in violation of art. 5, section 46 of the Oklahoma Constitution and filed a motion for declaratory relief declaring the statute unconstitutional. The trial court ruled in Plaintiffs' favor. The Supreme Court agreed: because 47 O.S.2011, section 7-116 impacted less than an entire class of similarly situated claimants it was under-inclusive and, therefore, the Court found it to be an unconstitutional special law prohibited by the Oklahoma Constitution. View "Montgomery v. Potter" on Justia Law

Hess v. Voklswagen of America, Inc.

The single issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on attorney's fees: was the trial court's grant of over $7 million in a multi-jurisdictional, class action law suit an abuse of discretion when the entire class was awarded only $45,780. The trial court originally determined the appropriate attorney fees to be $3,610,719.15 based on Oklahoma ex rel. Burk v. City of Oklahoma City, 598 P.2d 659 and the directives of 12 O.S. Supp. 2009 section 2023.2 Rajine Hess filed a motion to reconsider based on the fees awarded in Berry v. Volkswagen Group of America, 397 S.W.3d 425 (Mo. 2013), a Missouri Supreme Court case involving a class action against Volkswagen related to defective window regulator claims. The trial court considered the Missouri case; and, adopting the identical analysis utilized in reaching a determination that the appropriate fee award was approximately $3.6 million, the trial court amended its order to reflect a multiplier of 1.9 for an adjusted award of $7,221.438.30. In calculating the lodestar, the trial court included hours in failed, out-of-state litigation concerning similar issues to those presented here. Based on these facts, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that the $7 million attorneys' fee award constituted an abuse of discretion. View "Hess v. Voklswagen of America, Inc." on Justia Law

Trinity Baptist Church v. Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Services, LLC

A church filed a claim with its insurer for damage to its sanctuary after a severe winter storm. The insurer hired an independent insurance adjuster to adjust the claim. The church eventually filed suit against both its insurer and the independent adjuster alleging breach of contract, bad faith, and gross negligence. The church settled with its insurer, and the trial court granted summary judgment for the independent adjuster. The issues this case presented for the Supreme Court's review on appeal were: (1) whether a special relationship existed between an insured entity and an independent adjuster hired by the insurer, sufficient to subject the independent adjuster to the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing arising under the insurance contract; and (2) whether an independent insurance adjuster owed a legal duty to the insured such that it may be liable to the insured for negligence in its adjustment of the claim. The Oklahoma Supreme Court determined the answer to both questions was no, and affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Trinity Baptist Church v. Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Services, LLC" on Justia Law

Fent v. Fallin

Petitioner Jerry Fent, challenged Senate Bill No. 1246, alleging that because it was a revenue bill and subject to the requirements of the Oklahoma Constitution art. 5, sec. 33, was unconstitutional because the Legislature did not follow the Constitution when it was enacted. The parties conceded that the bill did not meet the requirements of art. 5. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that because the ballot title indicated that the measure was aimed at only bills "intended to raise revenue" and "revenue raising bills," the obvious meaning of raising revenue in this context was to increase revenue. Senate Bill 1246 was not unconstitutional, and the Court denied petitioner's request for declaratory relief. View "Fent v. Fallin" on Justia Law

Johnson v. Convalescent Center of Grady, LLC

The trial judge denied the appellants' motion to compel arbitration on the ground that there was no binding arbitration agreement. The trial judge ruled that Tamera Nelson did not have authority to sign an arbitration agreement on behalf of her grandmother, Arda Lee Churchill (who was a resident of the Grace Living Center-Chikasha until her death), so no valid arbitration agreement existed. The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that no valid arbitration agreement existed because Tamera Nelson was not authorized to make health care decisions for her grandmother under the circumstances. The Health Care Power of Attorney required that Arda Lee Churchill's physician certify that she was not capable of making her own health care decisions and no such certification was made. View "Johnson v. Convalescent Center of Grady, LLC" on Justia Law

American Airlines, Inc. v. Oklahoma Tax Commission

The main issue on appeal in this case was whether the purchase of electricity and natural gas utility services qualifies for a sales tax exemption. Appellant-taxpayer American Airlines, Inc., ("AA") was denied a refund for the sales tax it paid on its purchases of electricity and natural gas utility services during the 2006 calendar year. The Account Maintenance and Compliance Division of the Oklahoma Tax Commission denied the request. Appellant timely protested the denial. The Oklahoma Tax Commission, by order, adopted the Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations of the administrative law judge finding taxpayer failed to prove the denial was incorrect. Upon review, the Supreme Court held the Services Exemption (68 O.S. Supp. 2006, section 1357 (28)) provided an exemption for electricity and natural gas utility services used by AA during 2006 in aircraft repair and maintenance activities. The remaining issue concerned the appropriate methodology for determining the amount of the sales tax refund AA should have received on its 2006 purchases of utility services. The adopted Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations did not make a specific finding concerning an appropriate methodology. The Court remanded the case back to the Oklahoma Tax Commission for further proceedings. View "American Airlines, Inc. v. Oklahoma Tax Commission" on Justia Law

Eldredge v. Taylor

Partners in a civil union signed co-parenting agreements designating Plaintiff as the parent of Defendant's two biological children. Upon their separation and dissolution of the civil union, Plaintiff continued to act as a parent for the children. Defendant removed the children from Plaintiff's care, changed their last names, and planned to remove the children from Oklahoma. Plaintiff petitioned the District Court for, inter alia, a determination of her parental rights. The district court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss. Plaintiff appealed. This was an issue of first impression in Oklahoma. Addressing the threshold issue of standing with regard to plaintiff's case, the Supreme Court concluded that plaintiff had standing to seek a best-interests-of-the-child hearing when the biological parent relinquished some of her parental rights through a co-parenting agreement. As such, the Court concluded the trial court erred in granting defendant's motion to dismiss the case, and remanded the case to address other issues plaintiff raised on appeal. View "Eldredge v. Taylor" on Justia Law