Justia Oklahoma Supreme Court Opinion Summaries
Lane v. Progressive Northern Ins. Co.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit certified a question of law to the Oklahoma Supreme Court on whether Progressive Northern Insurance Company's Underinsured Motorist (UM) Exclusion--which operated to deny uninsured motorist coverage to insureds who recover at least the statutorily mandated minimum in the form of liability coverage--contravened Oklahoma's Uninsured Motorist Statute, codified at 36 O.S. section 3636. The Supreme Court responded "yes:" Because of the sweeping nature of the UM Exclusion contained in the insurance policy at issue, Progressive found a way to entirely avoid providing the promised coverage. "[A]n insurer in Oklahoma cannot deprive its policyholder of uninsured-motorist coverage for which a premium has been paid through an exclusion that effectively erases its policyholder's choice to purchase that coverage in the first place. We conclude that Progressive's UM Exclusion contravenes section 3636 and is therefore void as against public policy." View "Lane v. Progressive Northern Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Immel et al. v. Tulsa Public Facilities Authority
Plaintiffs-appellants, Craig Immel, Terry Young, Herb Beattie, and Ray Pearcey (collectively, "Taxpayers"), sought a declaratory judgment that Defendants-appellees, Tulsa Public Facilities Authority (TPFA) and the City of Tulsa (City), could not sell 8.8 acres of park land to a private developer for the construction of a commercial shopping center because the land was held in a public trust expressly as a park for the people. All parties moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the TPFA and the City's joint motion for summary judgment as to all claims. Taxpayers appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held: (1) Taxpayers had standing; (2) the TPFA and the City could not sell the 8.8 acres of park land to a private developer for construction of a commercial shopping center because the land was indeed held in a public trust for the people, unless it was abandoned and/or was no longer fit for its intended use as a public park; (3) there were disputed material facts as to whether the TPFA and the City lawfully abandoned the 8.8 acres of park land; and (4) there were disputed material facts as to whether the expenditure met the public purpose requirement under the Oklahoma Constitution. The trial court's order granting the TPFA and the City's joint motion for summary judgment was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Immel et al. v. Tulsa Public Facilities Authority" on Justia Law
In the Matter of I.T.S.
Appellant Iris Stacy (Mother) sought certiorari review of an unpublished opinion by the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals (COCA) that affirmed the trial court's judgment terminating her parental rights to I.T.S., I.M.S., and R.E.S. (Children). At issue was the trial court's sua sponte discharge of Mother's court-appointed counsel at the conclusion of the disposition hearing, which left her without representation until State filed its petition to terminate her parental rights over two years later. She argued the trial court's failure to provide her legal representation between the disposition and the filing of the petition to terminate her parental rights (a period of 798 days) was contrary to the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted her petition to address a question of first impression: Upon request by an Indian child's parent for counsel in a deprived child proceeding, and a finding of indigency, whether the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) required court-appointed counsel for the parent at all stages of the deprived child proceeding. The Supreme Court held that section 1912(b) of ICWA required, upon request and a finding of indigency, the appointment of counsel at all stages of the deprived child proceeding. View "In the Matter of I.T.S." on Justia Law
In the Matter of K. H.
Appellants Taylor Hudson (Mother) and Cody Hudson (Father) appealed a trial court's judgments terminating their parental rights to their biological children, K.H., C.H., E.H., and C.H. Both judgments were entered on separate jury verdicts finding that clear and convincing evidence supported each parent's “heinous and shocking physical abuse” on another child of Father. After review on rehearing, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held: (1) admitting evidence of State's pending criminal child abuse charges against Parents; and (2) giving a jury instruction that listed the criminal charges to support State's amended petition for immediate termination of parental rights was “so inherently prejudicial” that it violated Parents' right to a fair trial. The judgments were reversed, and the matter remanded for a new trial. View "In the Matter of K. H." on Justia Law
State ex rel. Okla. St. Bd. of Medical Licensure & Supervision v. Rivero
A physician's professional conduct was examined by the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision. During the disciplinary proceeding a stipulated protective order was entered by the Board. The professional complaint against the physician was dismissed, and approximately two years later the physician requested the Board modify its protective order to allow the physician to use three documents in a different legal proceeding. The Board refused, and the physician appealed. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held: (1) the stipulated blanket protective order making all documents in the administrative proceeding subject to the order and prohibiting their use in any other legal proceeding was contrary to the public policy expressed by the Oklahoma Open Records Act and the Oklahoma Discovery Code; and (2) the physician's claim seeking access to the initial report of misconduct was not properly before the Court. View "State ex rel. Okla. St. Bd. of Medical Licensure & Supervision v. Rivero" on Justia Law
Highpointe Energy v. Viersen
Appellee Highpointe Energy filed a quiet title action in Oklahoma against appellants the Viersens, and others. The disputed property concerned mineral interests from two different chains of title: one chain stemmed from a bankruptcy proceeding, while the other chain arose from a mortgage foreclosure proceeding and subsequent sheriff's sale. The trial court determined that the chain resulting from the foreclosure/sheriff's sale was superior to the bankruptcy chain. The Viersens appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that because the bankruptcy purchasers could secure no greater rights in the disputed property than the bankruptcy trustee held, the purchasers from the mortgage foreclosure proceeding held the superior title. View "Highpointe Energy v. Viersen" on Justia Law
Oklahoma State Medical Association et al. v. Corbett
Petitioners the Oklahoma State Medical Association, Oklahoma Dental Association, the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association, the Oklahoma Society of Anesthesiologists, Inc., and Oklahoma Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics, Inc., asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to exercise its original jurisdiction to declare the actions of Respondents Kevin Corbett, CEO of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the State of Oklahoma ex rel. the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA), to implementing a new managed care program known as SoonerSelect, was not statutorily authorized and that such actions were therefore ultra vires. In the alternative, if the Supreme Court finds statutory authorization existed, Petitioners sought a declaration that Respondents violated the non-delegation doctrine. Petitioners also asked the Supreme Court to invalidate the Respondents' actions, including the request for proposal (RFP) and contract awards, because the Respondents failed to promulgate administrative rules to govern their implementation in violation of 75 O.S. 2011, sections 302(D) and (E). Finally, the Petitioners asserted the SoonerSelect program would require mandatory enrollment in violation of article II, Section 37(B) of the Oklahoma Constitution. The Petitioners requested the Supreme Court issue a writ of prohibition barring the Respondents from implementing SoonerSelect until such time as the Oklahoma Legislature has conferred the necessary authority. In the alternative, if the Court found such authority already existed in statute, then Petitioners requested the Court issue a writ of mandamus requiring the Respondents to promulgate administrative rules governing the SoonerSelect program prior to further implementation of the program. The Supreme Court agreed with Petitioners' assertion that the Legislature did not authorize the creation of the SoonerSelect program. It therefore did not find it necessary to engage in a thorough examination of the statutes to determine if there was a non-delegation doctrine violation. The OHCA did not promulgate any rules governing SoonerSelect for to review in order to weigh such a determination. To this end, the Court granted Petitioners declaratory relief; the Court deemed writs of mandamus or probation inappropriate. View "Oklahoma State Medical Association et al. v. Corbett" on Justia Law
Guzman v. Guzman
The issue this case presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s review was whether the Court of Civil Appeals properly applied the laws on parental rights in a dispute between a married couple regarding custody and visitation with a minor child who was adopted by only one of the parties prior to marriage. The Supreme Court held that it did not: the child was adopted by Respondent-Appellee Adrieanna Guzman (Adrieanna) prior to the marriage. Petitioner-Appellant Carmen Guzman (Carmen) never adopted the child. As a step-parent, Carmen had no standing to petition the court for paternity of the child. Thus, the Court of Civil Appeals' opinion was vacated, and the trial court's order granting Adrieanna's motion to dismiss was affirmed. View "Guzman v. Guzman" on Justia Law
Johnson v. Midwest City Del City Public Schools
In 2017, Appellant Darlene Johnson, a school cafeteria worker for the Midwest City Del City Public Schools, fell in the school parking lot sustaining injuries. Immediately prior to this fall, Johnson had walked off the employer's facility onto an adjacent city street to take an authorized work break to smoke a cigarette. It is undisputed that (1) no injury occurred to Johnson while she was outside of the employer's facility premises, (2) Johnson was "clocked in" when she fell in the parking lot, and (3) her supervisor authorized her work break. It is further undisputed that the location where Johnson smoked her cigarette complied with the employer/school policy with regard to tobacco products. Appellant’s employer denied her claims for workers’ compensation, arguing Johnson was not in the course and scope of employment because her injuries did not occur "inside the employer's facility" within the meaning of 85A O.S.Supp.2013, section 2(13)(d). The administrative law judge awarded benefits to Johnson, finding that her accidental personal injuries occurred inside the employer's facility and arose in the course and scope of employment as defined by Section 2(13)(d). The Workers' Compensation Commission reversed this decision finding the administrative law judge misapplied the law and determined that Johnson was not in the course and scope of employment at the time of her injuries because the parking lot was not "inside the employer's facility." The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the Commission. After its review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court vacated the Court of Civil Appeals’ opinion, holding that the decision of the administrative law judge was neither against the clear weight of the evidence nor contrary to law and further that the decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission was in excess of statutory authority or jurisdiction and affected by other errors of law. View "Johnson v. Midwest City Del City Public Schools" on Justia Law
Morgan v. State Farm mutual Automobile Insur. Co.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit certified two questions of law to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Plaintiff-appellant George Morgan was driving drunk and hit Jesse Atkins with his truck at more than 40 miles per hour. Atkins was severely injured, and his resulting medical bills totaled more than $2 million. Defendant-appellee State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company provided liability insurance to Morgan at the time of the accident under a policy with a $100,000 limit. State Farm negotiated and executed a settlement with Atkins whereby State Farm paid its policy limit to Atkins and Atkins released his claims against Morgan. During the same timeframe, Atkins pursued a workers' compensation claim because he had been traveling for work when he was injured. The workers' compensation court issued a preliminary order for compensation, and the workers' compensation insurer began making payments to Atkins. The workers' compensation insurer's subrogee, New York Marine and General Insurance Company (NYM), sued Morgan in Oklahoma state court in June 2011 for reimbursement of the amounts paid to Atkins. Morgan retained personal counsel to represent him in the action. State Farm also provided counsel to Morgan and mounted a vigorous defense. A jury would later return a verdict in favor of NYM in the amount of $844,865.89, finding that State Farm knew about NYM's potential claim but failed to apprise NYM of its pending settlement with Atkins. The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the judgment, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court denied certiorari. Morgan then filed suit against State Farm alleging State Farm's failure to secure NYM's release as part of its settlement with Atkins amounted to: (1) breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing; and (2) breach of contract. The United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma found that Morgan's claims accrued in 2010, when State Farm negotiated the original settlement with Atkins and, therefore, concluded the applicable two and five year statutes of limitations for the tort and contract claims, respectively, barred Morgan's suit. Morgan appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Tenth Circuit asked: (1) where a plaintiff is injured by entry of an adverse judgment that remains unstayed, is the injury sufficiently certain to support accrual of a tort cause of action based on that injury under 12 O.S. 95 before all appeals of the adverse judgment are exhausted?; and (2) does an action for breach of an insurance contract accrue at the moment of breach where a plaintiff is not injured until a later date? The Oklahoma Court answered the first question with a "no:" the claim accrues when the appeal is finally determined in the underlying case. The Court answered the second question with a "yes:" an action for breach of contract accrues when the contract is breached, not when damages result; the limitations period may be tolled if the defendant fraudulently concealed the cause of action. View "Morgan v. State Farm mutual Automobile Insur. Co." on Justia Law