Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Claimant sought permanent total disability benefits from the Multiple Injury Trust Fund. The Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims held that the claimant's combined injuries rendered the claimant permanently totally disabled and awarded benefits. The Multiple Injury Trust Fund appealed. On appeal, the Court of Civil Appeals reversed, finding claimant ineligible to claim benefits against the Multiple Injury Trust Fund as the claimant was not a "physically impaired person" at the time of the claimant's second on-the-job injury. The dispositive issue presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s review was whether claimant met the statutory definition of a "physically impaired person" at the time of the claimant's second on-the-job injury for purposes of determining eligibility for Multiple Injury Trust Fund benefits. As a corollary, the Court considered whether a duly-executed settlement agreement (memorialized on a form prescribed by the Workers' Compensation Court) constituted an adjudication of the claimant's disabilities. The Court answered both questions in the affirmative. View "Multiple Injury Trust Fund v. Garrett" on Justia Law

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Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc., sued the Board of County Commissioners of Oklahoma County (County) for payment of medical services provided to prisoners and detainees in the Oklahoma County Jail. County admitted that Armor provided the medical services in question pursuant to a contract. County did not dispute the accuracy of Armor's monthly invoices for such services, and admitted it had not paid some invoices. Despite these admissions, County argued that judgment could not be entered because Armor had not provided proof of the availability of funds as required by 62 O.S.2001, sections 3621 and 3632. In reply, Armor argued that the County's obligation to pay for the medical services to the prisoners and detainees was not a claim founded on contract alone that was subject to the provisions of sections 362 and 363. Armor also argued that the obligation was not "indebtedness" as addressed in Article 10, section 263 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Armor asserted the County's obligation to pay the medical services provided to prisoners and detainees was incurred in fulfillment of a governmental function mandated by the Oklahoma Constitution. The trial court granted summary judgment to medical provider and County appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded nothing in the record suggested that the medical services provided by Armor for the prisoners and detainees in the Oklahoma County Jail were not "reasonable, proper, and necessary." As those services and the charges therefor were in fulfillment of the sheriff's constitutional duty for "the keeping of prisoners confided to his custody," Armor was entitled to judgment in its favor. View "Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc. v. Bd. of County Comm'rs of Okla. Cty." on Justia Law

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The trial court granted the request of a wholesaler of veterinary prescription drugs to set aside a final order of the Oklahoma Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (“Vet Board”) wherein the Board ordered the wholesaler to produce certain requested documents and fined it $25,000 for failure to do so. The Supreme Court found nothing in the Vet Act made wholesale distributors of veterinary prescription drugs, who are licensed and regulated by the Pharmacy Board through the Pharmacy Act, subject to the Vet Act and its investigative power. As such, the Vet Board was without statutory authority to investigate or sanction wholesalers who fell under the regulation of the Pharmacy Board, let alone fine a wholesaler $25,000 for failure to produce records that the Vet Board could have inspected in the regular course of the wholesaler's business. View "Farmacy, LLC v. Kirkpatrick" on Justia Law

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Employee-appellant Tracy Meeks sued an insurer for bad faith refusal to timely comply with several orders of the Workers' Compensation Court awarding employee temporary total disability benefits after the insurer, without good cause, withheld employee's benefits on twenty-six separate occasions. Insurer moved for dismissal, asserting employee failed to obtain a certification order from the Workers' Compensation Court (a jurisdictional prerequisite for commencing a bad-faith action in district court). The District Court granted insurer's motion, but the Supreme Court reversed. Because the certification requirements were met here, employee was free to proceed in district court on his bad-faith claim against insurer for insurer's alleged bad faith refusal to provide temporary total disability benefits as ordered by the WCC. View "Meeks v. Guarantee Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Petitioner Rodney Stanley Brown was employed by Respondent Claims Management Resources (CMR) as a claims adjuster. Brown suffered personal injury to his left knee. At the time Brown was injured, he finished his workday, clocked out, was leaving the office for the day when he fell while descending an interior stairwell. Brown's work area was on the second floor of the building where he worked, and CMR occupied the entire floor. Brown was unable to conclusively identify any factor that might have caused his fall. While admitting an injury occurred, CMR asserted Brown's injury was not compensable within the meaning of the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act (AWCA). A hearing on the matter was held before the Administrative Law Judge, and after considering the parties' stipulations, evidence, and arguments, the Administrative Law Judge concluded that Brown had failed to meet his burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that he suffered a compensable injury within the meaning of the AWCA. The Supreme Court concluded after its review that Brown was acting in the course and scope of his employment, and his injury was a compensable injury. The Workers' Compensation Commission’s interpretation of 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 sections 2(9) & (13) was legally incorrect and its order denying compensability was clearly erroneous in view of the competent evidence presented. Because relief was available on alternative grounds, the Court did not reach the constitutional issues presented. View "Brown v. Claims Management Resources, Inc." on Justia Law

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Prior to filing condemnation proceedings the Appellee Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) offered Appellants, Cedars Group, L.L.C., A. Sam Coury and Bush, Ltd. d/b/a Deer Creek Texaco, (collectively, Coury Defendants), $562,500.00 for the acquisition of certain real property. The offer was not accepted and ODOT commenced two condemnation proceedings. In one, a commissioners' report estimated the value of just compensation for the property to be $285,000.00. In the second proceeding, the value of just compensation was estimated as $177,500.00. The combined value of the two commissioners' awards totaled $462,500.00. The Coury Defendants hired Gregg Renegar's law firm to provide representation in the condemnation proceedings. Pursuant to the firm’s attorney-client agreement, the Coury Defendants agreed to pay forty percent of the difference between an award and jury verdict, plus any attorney’s fees allowed by the court. A jury trial was held, and the jury awarded just compensation of $525,000 for the two tracts. Defendants applied for attorney fees. The trial court determined Defendants were not entitled to an award of fees because they never actually incurred any. In the end, the trial court awarded appraisal fees but denied reasonable attorney, engineering and expert witness fees, costs and expenses of Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part; the case was remanded for a determination of reasonable attorney fees, engineering and expert witness fees, and costs. View "Oklahoma ex rel. Dept. of Trans. v. Cedars Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (Authority) wanted to issue revenue bonds for use in the construction of certain turnpike projects. Pursuant to 69 O.S.2011, section 1718, the Authority filed an application with the Oklahoma Supreme Court seeking approval of the proposed bonds. The Protestant, Jerry Fent, challenged the validity of the requested bonds. After review of the Protestant’s arguments to challenge the bonds, the Supreme Court determined the proposed bond issue was properly authorized. The Court found that valid notice of this application was given and that the Authority and the Protestant were fully heard. The Protestant advanced no legally or factually supportable reasons to disapprove the application. Accordingly, the Authority's application was granted. View "In the Matter of the Application of the Okla. Turnpike Authority" on Justia Law

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BoDe Tower was an Oklahoma limited liability company which owned a tract of land in the Gooseneck Bend area of Muskogee County. In 2009, BoDe Tower began the process of securing authorization from state and federal officials for the construction of a telecommunications tower on the tract in an effort to fill a gap in cellular coverage. Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the BoDe Tower asserting a nuisance claim. Plaintiffs' cause of action was predicated on the placement of a cellular telephone tower adjacent to their respective properties. Following a bench trial, the trial court entered a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and directed BoDe Tower to disassemble the cellular tower. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the judgment. The Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari and concluded the trial court's decision was against the clear weight of the evidence. "Considering the totality of the evidence presented in this case, BoDe's cellular tower cannot be deemed actionable nuisance. Our case law prohibits nuisance claims based entirely on aesthetic concerns. It would be wholly unreasonable to allow one individual's visual sensitivities to impede development of cellular phone service for the residents of Muskogee. BoDe Tower undertook significant investment and complied with all regulatory hurdles. The judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals is vacated, and the trial court's judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs is reversed." View "Laubenstein v. BoDe Tower, LLC" on Justia Law

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Mustang Run Wind Project, LLC, (Mustang) filed an application with the Osage County Board of Adjustment for a conditional use permit involving approximately 9,500 acres of land. Mustang proposed to use the land for placing sixty-eight wind turbines on less than 150 acres and generating electricity. Public meetings on the proposed wind energy facility were held in April and May 2014. The proposed facility was close to another "wind farm" which had obtained a permit three years previously. Mustang's application included land zoned for agricultural use and was then being used for agriculture and ranching. The County Board of Adjustment denied the application. A trial de novo was held and the trial court ordered the County Board of Adjustment to issue a conditional use permit. The Osage County Board of Adjustment and the Osage Nation appealed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court held that the Osage County Board of Adjustment possessed authority to grant conditional use permits, but the trial judge's findings were not against the clear weight of the evidence. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court's judgment requiring the Board of Adjustment to issue a conditional use permit with any additional reasonable conditions. View "Mustang Run Wind Project, LLC v. Osage City Bd of Adjustment" on Justia Law

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The focus of this appeal centered on the validity of HB 2630; 2014 Okla. Sess. Laws c. 375 (effective November 1, 2014). HB 2630 created the Retirement Freedom Act (74 O.S. Supp. 2014, sec. 935.1 et seq.), with the stated purpose as creating a new defined contribution system within the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) for persons who initially became a member of OPERS on or after November 1, 2015 (this included most state employees hired on or after this date). Plaintiffs-appellants filed a Petition for Declaratory and Supplemental Relief challenging the validity of HB 2630, claiming HB 2630 was void because it was passed by the Legislature in violation of the Oklahoma Pension Legislation Actuarial Analysis Act (OPLAA). Both parties filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted defendants-appellees' motion for summary judgment and the appellants appealed. Agreeing with the trial court that the OPLAA had not been violated, the Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in defendants' favor. View "Stevens v. Fox" on Justia Law