Justia Oklahoma Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

by
Appellant Marie Yammine, as former wife and primary beneficiary of a two million dollar life insurance policy issued by Respondent ReliaStar Life Insurance Company to her former husband, Dr. Jean Bernard, appealed a declaratory judgment finding the contingent beneficiary, Appellee Roland Ghoussoub, was entitled to the policy's death benefit. Dr. Bernard died after the trial court granted the parties' divorce but prior to final judgment on all issues. The trial court declared Yammine and Bernard were divorced and that 15 O.S.2011 § 178(A) operated to revoke her beneficiary designation to the death benefits. Whether Oklahoma's revocation-upon-divorce statute, 15 O.S.2011 § 178(A), applied when one party dies after the granting of the divorce but prior to final judgment on all issues, was a matter of first impression for the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The Court concluded Section 178(A) required a final judgment on all issues, and that the trial court erred by interpreting 15 O.S.2011 § 178(A) to revoke Yammine's beneficiary designation in Bernard's life insurance policy based on an order granting divorce when the final judgment on all issues remained pending at husband's death. The trial court's declaratory judgment was reversed, and this case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Ghoussoub v. Yammine" on Justia Law

by
The limited issue before the Oklahoma Supreme Court in this case was whether Appellants Steve and Kaci Snow (the Snows) had standing to assert a claim for inverse condemnation against the Town of Calumet (Town), Oklahoma. Landowners sued the Town for trespass and inverse condemnation due to maintaining two municipal sewer lines across the owners' property after the expiration of two temporary easements. The town counterclaimed to quiet title. Both parties moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the landowners' motion for summary judgment on the town's quiet-title claim and granted the town's motion for summary judgment on the landowners' claims for trespass and inverse condemnation. The landowners appealed the district court's judgment on their inverse condemnation claim. The Supreme Court answered the issue presented in the affirmative. Town's temporary easements for sewer lines installed by Town on the Snows' property expired in 2010, and Town then sought perpetual easements without compensation from the Snows for the continual use and maintenance of the sewer lines. Under these facts, the Snows had standing to assert a claim for inverse condemnation. View "Snow v. Town of Calumet" on Justia Law

by
Husband filed a petition seeking appointment as guardian over his wife. The parties' daughter, Christy Hladik, objected and sought to have herself appointed. In July 2020, the trial court entered the Court's First Amended Plan for Care and Treatment of Ward and Management of Property of the Ward. A month later, the trial court appointed daughter as guardian over the person and property of Wife. Husband appealed, and on the Oklahoma Supreme Court's own motion, the matter was retained. After reviewing the record and briefs, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's rulings. View "Walterscheidt v. Hladik" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff-appellant Jayen Patel, M.D. brought a tort claim for wrongful termination against defendant-appellee Tulsa Pain Consultants, Inc. (TPC). The trial court found Patel was not an at-will employee and entered a directed verdict in favor of TPC. Patel appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. TPC moved for appeal-related attorney fees, which the Court of Civil Appeals denied. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether TPC had a contractual right to recover attorney fees as the prevailing party in Patel's wrongful termination claim. After review, the Supreme Court found that the specific language in the parties' employment agreement authorized attorney fees in this case. View "Patel v. Tulsa Pain Consultants" on Justia Law

by
Crown Energy Company ("Crown") brought suit against Mid-Continent Casualty Company ("Mid-Continent") seeking declaratory judgment that two commercial general liability policies issued to Crown provided coverage for claims of property damage brought against Crown in a separate action. The claims arose out of seismic activity allegedly caused by Crown's use of waste water disposal wells in its oil and gas operations. Mid-Continent filed a counterclaim, seeking declaratory judgment that the claims were not covered under the policies because the seismic activity did not constitute an "occurrence" and that the claims fell within a pollution exclusion to the policies. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Crown. Mid-Continent appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment. After its review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found that the seismic activity did constitute an occurrence under the policies, and that the pollution exclusion did not bar coverage. The Court of Civil Appeals’ judgment was reversed and the trial court affirmed. View "Crown Energy Co. v. Mid-Continent Casualty Co." on Justia Law

by
An automobile driven by defendant Patrick McLaughlan, struck plaintiff Jerry Harwood while Harwood was leaving his work shift and crossing the street to an employer provided parking lot. After an unsuccessful attempt to recover workers compensation benefits for his injuries, Harwood filed a lawsuit against the driver and his employer. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit against the employer for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Harwood appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that because an employer may have assumed the duty to provide a safer crosswalk for access to an employer designated parking lot, the employee pled a claim for relief which is legally possible. The trial court's dismissal was premature. View "Harwood v. Ardagh Group" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed an action challenging rules adopted by the Oklahoma Board of Tests for Alcohol and Drug Influence at one of its meetings. Those rules were subsequently used by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety in actions to revoke plaintiffs' driver's licenses. The district court held an evidentiary hearing and concluded: (1) the Board violated the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act; and (2) rules adopted by the Board at its meeting were invalid. Defendants appealed and the Court of Civil Appeals concluded a willful violation of the Open Meeting Act did not occur and reversed the district court. Plaintiffs petitioned for certiorari review, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Civil Appeals: the evidence was insufficient to make a prima facie case that the Board's Director willfully violated the Open Meeting Act when he failed to send the email notice of the special meeting to the Secretary of State. "The evidence showed a single event of an official's forgetfulness and omission when he sent an email notice to many individuals and failed to include the Secretary of State's address on the email, and additional evidence showed this omission was not a willful violation of the Act." View "Bailey, et al. v. Oklahoma ex rel. Bd. of Tests for Alcohol & Drug Influence" on Justia Law

by
The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority petitioned the Oklahoma Supreme Court to approve the issuance of ratepayer-backed bonds pursuant to the February 2021 Regulated Utility Consumer Protection Act, 74 O.S.2021, ch. 110A-1, sections 9070-9081. The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority sought to issue bonds to cover the debt incurred by Summit Utilities Oklahoma from unprecedented fuel costs during a February 2021 winter weather event. Summit Utilities’ ratepayers would then fund the bond payments through a monthly charge. The ratepayer-backed bonds would allow customers to pay their utility bills at a lower amount over a longer period of time. No protestants challenged the proposed bonds. The Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction and held that the ratepayer-backed bonds were properly authorized under the Act and were constitutional. View "In the Matter of the Application of the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority" on Justia Law

by
The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority petitioned the Oklahoma Supreme Court to approve the issuance of ratepayer-backed bonds pursuant to the February 2021 Regulated Utility Consumer Protection Act, 74 O.S.2021, ch. 110A-1, sections 9070-9081. The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority sought to issue bonds to cover the debt incurred by Public Service Company of Oklahoma from unprecedented fuel costs during a February 2021 winter weather event. Public Service Company of Oklahoma's ratepayers would then fund the bond payments through a monthly charge. The ratepayer-backed bonds would allow customers to pay their utility bills at a lower amount over a longer period of time. No protestants challenged the proposed bonds. The Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction and held that the ratepayer-backed bonds were properly authorized under the Act and were constitutional. View "In the Matter of the Application of the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority" on Justia Law

by
The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority petitioned the Oklahoma Supreme Court to approve the issuance of ratepayer-backed bonds pursuant to the February 2021 Regulated Utility Consumer Protection Act, 74 O.S.2021, ch. 110A-1, sections 9070-9081. The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority sought to issue bonds to cover the debt incurred by Oklahoma Natural Gas Company from unprecedented fuel costs during a February 2021 winter weather event. Oklahoma Natural Gas Company's ratepayers would then fund the bond payments through a monthly charge. The ratepayer-backed bonds would allow customers to pay their utility bills at a lower amount over a longer period of time. Protestants challenged the proposed bonds on several grounds, focusing on the constitutionality of the bonds. The Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction and held that the ratepayer-backed bonds were properly authorized under the Act and were constitutional. View "In the Matter of the Application of the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority" on Justia Law