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In 2013, DHS removed R.M, C.M., and E.M., then eight (8) years and six (6) months, six (6) years and ten (10) months, and four (4) years and ten (10) months old respectively, from Mother's custody. The questions this case presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court's review were whether: (1) the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) provided reasonable efforts to reunite Mother with Children; (2) the State presented clear and convincing evidence to support the termination of parental rights; and (3) Mother's trial counsel provided effective assistance. The Court answered all questions in the affirmative, and affirmed the district court's judgment. View "In the Matter of C.M." on Justia Law

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Husband and Wife were divorced following a four-day trial. On June 30, 2016, a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, memorializing the trial court's rulings, was filed in the proceeding. On July 15, 2016, Husband and Wife both filed motions seeking reconsideration of certain aspects of the Decree. Husband subsequently filed a response to Wife's motion, arguing it had not been filed within ten days; and therefore, was not timely under 12 O.S. 2011 sec. 653. The trial court denied Wife's motion, concluding it had been filed out of time. On appeal, the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the trial court's denial of Wife's motion to reconsider, also concluding Wife's motion was not timely filed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted Wife's petition for certiorari, and determined both tribunals erred by miscalculating the ten-day deadline in section 653 in light of the time computation requirements in 12 O.S. 2011 sec. 2006(A). View "Christian v. Christian" on Justia Law

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Russell Foutch and Randall Barrios died while incarcerated in Oklahoma jails: Barrios by his own hand; Foutch from complications related to pneumonia. Their estates sued the respective jails, one sheriff, and various employees and healthcare contractors of those jails. Their claims included: (1) federal civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the federal constitution; (2) negligence and wrongful death claims; (3) negligent conduct, training, hiring, and supervision claims; and (4) tort claims alleging violations of rights guaranteed by Sections 7 and 9 of Article II of the Oklahoma Constitution. Two federal courts certified questions of law to the Oklahoma Supreme Court: (1) the Governmental Tort Claims Act renders the State immune from any tort suit arising out of the "[p]rovision, equipping, operation or maintenance of any prison, jail or correctional facility." Do Sections 7 and 9 of Article II of the Oklahoma Constitution nonetheless allow an inmate to bring a tort claim for denial of medical care? and (2) if so, is the private cause of action to be recognized retrospectively? Responding required the Court to determine whether to extend the holding in Bosh v. Cherokee County Governmental Building Authority (305 P.3d 994) to include tort claims brought by inmates alleging violations of their rights to due process and to be free from cruel or unusual punishments. The Oklahoma Legislature responded to Bosh by amending the Governmental Tort Claims Act ("GTCA"), 51 O.S. 151 et seq., to clarify that the State's immunity from suit extended even to so-called "constitutional" torts. The Court, therefore, answered the first certified question "no," and did not reach the second question. View "Barrios v. Haskell County Public Facilities Authority" on Justia Law

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The district court found respondent-appellant Warren Ellis, Jr. guilty of contempt related to his failure to follow the terms of a divorce decree and separation agreement. Ellis appealed when the trial court issued a certified interlocutory order for immediate appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The Supreme Court denied the respondent's petition for review. Subsequently, Ellis submitted a purge plan to the trial court to purge his contempt. Upon completion of the purge plan, the trial court issued a summary order purging the contempt. Ellis again appealed the finding of contempt, arguing that because the Supreme Court did not grant his previous petition to review the interlocutory order, he was unconstitutionally denied access to Court. He also argued the trial court: (1) improperly applied res judicata to a previous bankruptcy court proceeding; (2) improperly interpreted the separation agreement; and (3) erred in finding him guilty of contempt. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held respondent was not unconstitutionally denied access to Court, and that the trial court did not err in its application of res judicata, in its interpretation of the separation agreement, or in finding the respondent in contempt. Consequently, it affirmed the trial court. View "Lay v. Ellis" on Justia Law

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Mother gave birth to Child J.L.O. in 2016. When Child was less than two weeks old, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) removed Child from Mother's custody, and shortly thereafter the State filed a petition requesting the court adjudicate Child deprived. On June 13, 2016, Tulsa Police pulled over Child's natural parents for expired tags. During the impound inventory, Tulsa Police found multiple items containing brown residue which the searching officer confirmed as heroin, via field test. Mother admitted to using heroin previously, but claimed that she had quit after learning she was pregnant. While Child was in the NICU for weight loss, hospital staff observed Mother with symptoms of continued heroin use including: passing out on a toilet, falling asleep with Child on her chest, and dozing off while standing up. The State alleged that Mother's actions constituted "neglect, failure to provide a safe and stable home, threat of harm, and substance abuse by [the] caretaker." Mother failed to appear for the hearing; ultimately termination proceedings were initiated and granted. Mother raised five issues on appeal; finding no reversible error, the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed termination of her parental rights. View "In the matter of J.L.O." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Petitioner Trina Engles received temporary total disability benefits in 2006, for a December 2, 2005 injury. She had fallen backwards in a chair at work, which caused the injury. On January 15, 2010, Engles received permanent partial disability benefits for the neck injury. She had previously suffered a non-work-related injury in 1998. That injury occurred from an electrocution and fall at her home. She had multiple back and neck surgeries as a result. Ultimately she was awarded benefits from the Multiple Injury Trust Fund based on the most recent Court of Civil Appeals decision. MITF filed a timely petition for certiorari to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, arguing the Court had never before addressed the conclusion and holding of the Court of Civil Appeals. It argued the holding that a PTD benefit claimant against MITF may reopen an underlying case during the pendency of a claim against MITF, settle the reopened claim, and then use the settlement to later obtain a MITF award after another division of the Court of Civil Appeals ruled there was no jurisdiction for claimant's claim of benefits against MITF. MITF also argued the court did not follow the Supreme Court's jurisprudence, arguing it ignored the law-of-the-case doctrine. MITF claims the court did not correctly apply the statute, ignoring the Court's case law that a change of condition for the worse was not a subsequent injury under section 172. MITF contended that Engles was not eligible for benefits as she only has one previous adjudicated injury and her change of condition for the worse just reopened the original injury. Finally, MITF argued the court determined the competence of evidence sua sponte, contradicting Oklahoma case law. The Supreme Court agreed that Engles had one adjudicated injury, and suffered no subsequent injury after her 2005 injury; she could not be a physically impaired person and the appellate court lacked jurisdiction against MITF. "Reopening a lone injury and characterizing the resulting compromise settlement as a second adjudicated injury cannot establish jurisdiction over MITF." The Court vacated the opinion of the Court of Civil Appeals and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Engles v. Multiple Injury Trust Fund" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a 2015 motor vehicle accident between Ronald Fox and James Mize in Norman, Oklahoma. Mize was traveling northbound on Sunnylane Road in a tractor-trailer owned by his employer, Van Eaton Ready Mix, Inc., when he made a left turn onto Van Eaton's property. According to the traffic collision report, Mize made an improper turn in front of oncoming traffic. Fox, who was travelling southbound on Sunnylane Road on a motorcycle, collided with Mize's tractor-trailer and was declared dead at the scene from a head injury. The report provided that Fox made no improper driving action and that neither driver appeared to be speeding at the time of the collision. Mize held a Class "A" commercial driver's license subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), and Van Eaton stipulated that Mize was acting in the course and scope of employment at the time of the collision. Mize was taken from the scene to Norman Regional for a blood test, which showed he was under the influence of a prescription narcotic banned by the FMCSR at the time of the accident. Plaintiff, the personal representative of Fox's estate, brought suit against Mize for negligence and negligence per se and sued Van Eaton for negligence and negligence per se under the theory of respondeat superior. Plaintiff also asserted direct negligence claims against Van Eaton for negligent hiring, training, and retention, and negligent entrustment. Van Eaton stipulated that Mize was acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the collision and sought dismissal of the Plaintiff's direct negligence claims, arguing that negligent hiring and negligent entrustment were unnecessary, superfluous, and contrary to public policy because Van Eaton had already admitted to being Mize's employer for purposes of vicarious liability. The district court dismissed the negligent hiring claim but allowed the negligent entrustment claim to proceed. Upon consideration, the Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded an employer's liability for negligently entrusting a vehicle to an unfit employee was a separate and distinct theory of liability from that of an employer's liability under the respondeat superior doctrine. An employer's stipulation that an accident occurred during the course and scope of employment does not, as a matter of law, bar a negligent entrustment claim. View "Fox v. Mize" on Justia Law

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The petitioner-employer sought review of the Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims which upheld a trial court's determination that respondent-employee Jennifer Hodge suffered a change of condition for the worse to her left leg/knee when she was injured in a medical facility where she was receiving medical treatment to a previously adjudicated body part. The employer urged there was insufficient evidence to support the trial court's decision because: (1) any injury arose from an intervening negligent act; and (2) there was no medical evidence to support a worsening of condition to employee's left leg/knee. The three-judge panel disagreed with Employer and affirmed the trial court. Employer then filed a Petition for Review and the Court of Civil Appeals vacated the decision of the three-judge panel. Hodge filed a Petition for Certiorari to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Granting review, the Supreme Court found competent evidence to support the decisions from the trial court and the three-judge panel. Accordingly, the Court vacated the Court of Civil Appeals and affirmed the Workers' Compensation Court. View "City of Tulsa v. Hodge" on Justia Law

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This appeal centered on the trial court's judgment after a bench trial that denied the Appellant's petition to cancel Appellee's oil and gas leases, to quiet title in favor of the Appellant's "top leases," and to hold Appellee liable for slander of title. The Oklahoma Supreme Court retained the appeal to address several issues of first impression. Through this opinion, the Court declined to adopt the definition of "capability" propounded by the Appellant and affirmed the district court's finding that Appellee's wells were capable of production in paying quantities. The Court affirmed the district court's judgment insofar as it quieted title in Appellee's favor as to leasehold interests located inside those wells' spacing units. The Court reversed the district court's judgment insofar as it quieted title in Appellee's favor as to leasehold interests in lands falling outside those wells' spacing units, because the statutory Pugh clause found in 52 O.S. 87.1(b) required it. Furthermore, the Court found that the title of the bill enacting the statutory Pugh clause did not violate Article V, Section 57 of the Oklahoma Constitution and that the effect of the statutory Pugh clause upon Appellee's leasehold interests did not result in an unconstitutional taking in violation of Article II, Section 23 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Lastly, the Court reversed the district court's judgment insofar as it quieted title in Appellee's favor as to leases upon which no well had ever been drilled. View "Hall v. Galmor" on Justia Law

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Appellant, John Burks was a bondsman who posted one hundred thousand dollar ($100,000) bail for defendant Billy Durfey in a criminal case. Durfey did not appear in court and the court forfeited the bond. On December 15, 2014, the same day that Durfey failed to appear, the bondsman made a written request to the Sheriff's office that Durfey be entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. The bondsman did not place any restrictions or limitations on his request and he signed a letter agreeing to pay for all extradition expenses incurred in returning Durfey to Garvin County, Oklahoma. Days later, Burks learned that the Sheriff's office had entered Durfey into the database, but that the extradition directive had been geographically limited to Oklahoma and its surrounding states. At his own expense, Burks conducted an investigation for Durfey which led him to Montana. Local law enforcement, however, was unable to assist Burks because Durfey was not listed in the NCIC database due to the restrictions placed by the Garvin County Sherriff. Burks again contacted the Sheriff's office and asked that any territorial restrictions be removed. It was not until the Bondsman obtained information that Durfey may have traveled to Mexico that an Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper assigned to the U.S. Marshal's office got involved. The Sheriff ultimately lifted the geographical restrictions pursuant to the Highway Patrol's request. The bondsman paid the bond forfeiture after he was unable to apprehend Durfey and return him to Garvin County. The only question presented to the Oklahoma Supreme Court in this case was whether, under the facts of this case, the bondsman was entitled to remittance of the posted bond pursuant to 59 O.S. Supp. 2014 section 1332. The Supreme Court found Burks fully complied with 59 O.S. Supp. 2014 section 1332, yet the Sheriff did not honor his request within the statutory period. Consequently, the bond was exonerated by operation of law. Burks presented convincing evidence of good cause why Durfey did not appear. The bondsman was entitled to remittance of the posted bond pursuant to statute. View "Oklahoma v. Durfey" on Justia Law