Justia Oklahoma Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The mother of a child injured while visiting a cemetery when a headstone fell sued the Town of Granite, the operator of the cemetery, for negligence. The district court granted Town's motion for summary judgment, holding that Town did not owe a duty to the child. The mother appealed. The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals reversed the district court's judgment, holding Town owed a duty to the child regarding dangerous defects. After certiorari review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded the Town did not own or control the headstone, and therefore owed no duty to the child regarding the maintenance of the headstone. View "Kamphaus v. Town of Granite" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant John Coates brought an action for breach of contract and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing against defendant-appellee Progressive Direct Insurance Company. Plaintiff was injured after a motorcycle collision; he was insured by Progressive under a motorcycle policy, an auto policy, and a policy providing UM coverage. Coates moved for partial summary judgment regarding his entitlement to uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits. Progressive moved for summary judgment regarding Coates' bad faith claim. Coates sought more time to conduct discovery to address Progressive's counterclaim on bad faith. The trial court granted Coates' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, allowing his UM claim against Progressive. The trial court also granted Progressive's Motion for Summary Judgment, denying Coates' claim for breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing. The trial court denied Coates' Motion for Additional Time to Respond. After review of the parties’ arguments on appeal, the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of partial summary judgment on Coates' UM claim. The Court reversed, however, the decisions granting Progressive's Motion for Summary Judgment and denying Coates additional time to respond to that motion. View "Coates v. Progressive Direct Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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In February 2021, the State of Oklahoma endured record cold temperatures. The severe cold weather resulted in a shortage of the natural gas supply and in turn extraordinary natural gas costs for regulated utilities operating in Oklahoma. The cost of natural gas for the Oklahoma utilities during the two weeks of extreme cold exceeded their entire fuel acquisition cost in 2020. As a result, the Oklahoma Legislature enacted the February 2021 Regulated Utility Consumer Protection Act, 74 O.S.2021, ch. 110A-1, sections 9070-9081, to provide financing options to lower the economic impact on the utility customers. Most Oklahomans could not afford a one-time, cost recovery payment imposed by the utility, and the Legislature provided a new mechanism to spread the fuel cost recovery over a longer period to minimize the financial impact on utility customers. The Act authorized the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (Commission) to approve the recovery of costs through securitization. The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority requested that the Oklahoma Supreme Court assume original jurisdiction and approve the issuance of ratepayer-backed bonds pursuant to the Act. The Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction and held the ratepayer-backed bonds were properly authorized under the Act and were constitutional. View "In re: Application of OK Dev. Finance Auth." on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma certified two questions of law to the Oklahoma Supreme Court relating to the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act, and whether it applied to conduct outside of Oklahoma. The matter concenred a dispute between Continental Resources, Inc. (Continental), an oil and gas producer headquartered in Oklahoma, and Wolla Oilfield Services, LLC (Wolla), a North Dakota limited liability company that operated as a hot oil service provider in North Dakota. Continental alleged the parties entered into an agreement for Wolla to provide hot oil services at an hourly rate to Continental's wells in North Dakota. As part of the contract, Wolla agreed to submit its invoices through an "online billing system" and to bill accurately and comprehensively for work it performed. A whistleblower in Wolla's accounting department notified Continental about systematic overbilling in connection with this arrangement. Continental conducted an audit and concluded Wolla's employees were overbilling it for time worked. Wolla denies these allegations. The Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded: (1) the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act does not apply to a consumer transaction when the offending conduct that triggers the Act occurs solely within the physical boundaries of another state; and (2) the Act also does not apply to conduct where, even if the physical location is difficult to pinpoint, such actions or transactions have a material impact on, or material nexus to, a consumer in the state of Oklahoma. View "Continental Resources v. Wolla Oilfield Services" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant, S. K. W. (W.) was convicted of five crimes relating to the manufacturing, trafficking, and possession of a controlled dangerous substance in Blaine and Canadian Counties, Oklahoma in 2001 and 2002. According to W., her arrest stemmed from her two-year addiction (2000-2002) to methamphetamine, which she struggled with after the unexpected death of her mother. Also according to W., while in the Department of Corrections custody, she dried out, got help dealing with her underlying emotional issues, and has been sober for nineteen years. On January 5, 2021, the Oklahoma Governor pardoned W. of all five convictions. Subsequently, she sought expungement of her criminal records pursuant to 22 O.S. Supp. 2019 section 18. The Blaine County District Court granted W.'s expungement request, but the Canadian County District Court denied it. The trial court based its denial on two Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals cases which interpreted the statute to allow one single conviction to be expunged, not multiple convictions. W. appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that because the expungement was based on the Governor's pardon of all five convictions, the plain, unambiguous text of 22 O.S. Supp. 2019 section 18 allowed expungement of all of them. View "S.K.W. v. Oklahoma" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Petitioner challenged the legal sufficiency of Oklahoma State Question No. 818, Initiative Petition No. 432. State Question 818, Petition No. 432 sought to create a new article to the Oklahoma Constitution, Article 31, which would: (1) replace the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority with a new state agency--the "Oklahoma State Cannabis Commission" and define its duties; and (2) expand the statutory framework regarding regulation and taxation of medical marijuana. Petitioner Paul Tay, alleged State Question No. 818, Petition No. 432 was unconstitutional because: (1) it was preempted by federal law; (2) signatures gathered on and elections held on tribal land would be invalid; and (3) its gist was insufficient. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held Petitioner failed to establish clear or manifest facial unconstitutionality. State Question No. 818, Initiative Petition No. 432 was therefore legally sufficient for submission to Oklahomans for voting. View "Tay v. Green" on Justia Law

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Petitioner challenged the legal sufficiency of Oklahoma State Question No. 818, Initiative Petition No. 432. State Question 818, Petition No. 432 sought to create a new article to the Oklahoma Constitution, Article 31, which would: (1) replace the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority with a new state agency--the "Oklahoma State Cannabis Commission" and define its duties; and (2) expand the statutory framework regarding regulation and taxation of medical marijuana. Petitioner Paul Tay, alleged State Question No. 818, Petition No. 432 was unconstitutional because: (1) it was preempted by federal law; (2) signatures gathered on and elections held on tribal land would be invalid; and (3) its gist was insufficient. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held Petitioner failed to establish clear or manifest facial unconstitutionality. State Question No. 818, Initiative Petition No. 432 was therefore legally sufficient for submission to Oklahomans for voting. View "Tay v. Green" on Justia Law

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On July 9, 2020, the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, 140 S. Ct. 2452 (2020), determining that Congress never disestablished the Creek Reservation in eastern Oklahoma and, therefore, it was "Indian country" for purposes of the Major Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 1153. Under the Major Crimes Act, "[o]nly the federal government, not the State, may prosecute Indians for major crimes committed in Indian country." Relying on McGirt, Plaintiffs-appellants Jason Nicholson, Justin Hooper, Cael Burgess, and Derek Hair filed the underlying civil suit seeking to recover fines and fees they were ordered to pay as a result of allegedly unlawful prosecutions by the State and certain municipalities. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that the trial court properly dismissed Plaintiffs' claims for money had and received. Plaintiffs' claims required a determination that their state and municipal court criminal convictions and sentences were invalid. “Challenges to criminal jurisdiction are governed by the Post-Conviction Procedure Act. … Plaintiffs' convictions and sentences cannot be invalidated by the trial court in this civil action for money had and received. As a result, Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” View "Nicholson v. Stitt" on Justia Law

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Corporate taxpayer Raytheon Company's 2012 income tax return was due on March 15, 2013. Raytheon filed its return on September 27, 2013, after securing an authorized extension of the deadline. Raytheon later discovered that the return overstated the company's annual income based upon the inadvertent inclusion of Arizona property sales. The company filed an amended 2012 return on September 27, 2016, claiming a refund of $321,444.00. The Oklahoma Tax Commission denied the refund claim, reasoning taxpayer submitted its demand more than three years after paying the taxes. An administrative law judge found the claimed refund was time barred under 68 O.S.2011, section 2373, and the Commissioners affirmed this finding. The company appealed, and after review the Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed, finding the taxpayer timely brought the claim for refund, having paid taxes to the Oklahoma Tax Commission upon filing its amended original return with a proper extension. View "In the matter of the Income Tax Protest of Raytheon Company" on Justia Law

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Procedurally, after an initial determination of child support and custody, Appellee Kirsten Friend (Mother) sought to modify the child support order and applied to find Appellant Brian Friend (Father) in contempt, claiming he had not paid child support for several months. The district court granted Mother's motions. The trial court found Father in indirect contempt and increased the child support payment. Mother asked for attorney fees and costs, dividing the request into fees incurred for the request to modify child support and fees incurred for the contempt request. Father objected but conceded the only issue was whether Mother was legally entitled to the fees. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that, where a prevailing party is entitled to attorney fees below, they are also entitled to appellate attorney fees; where an award of attorney fees is within the trial court's discretion, a prevailing party may be granted appellate attorney fees. View "Friend v. Friend" on Justia Law