by
On May 1, 2018, Respondents-proponents Dr. Tom Coburn, Brooke McGowan, and Ronda Vuillemont-Smith timely filed Referendum Petition No. 25, State Question No. 799 (the petition) with the Oklahoma Secretary of State. The petition sought to refer HB 1010xx to the people of Oklahoma for their approval or rejection at the regular election to be held on November 6, 2018. Protestants, several educators and organizations purporting to represent Oklahoma educational interests, timely filed an original action protesting the legal sufficiency of the petition, asserting the gist of the petition was legally insufficient for several reasons, and further asserted the petition was legally insufficient for failure to include an exact copy of the text of the measure as required by 34 O.S. Supp. 2015 sec. 1. Finding the referendum was indeed insufficient, the Oklahoma Supreme Court declared it invalid and ordered stricken from the November 2018 ballot. View "Oklahoma's Children, Our Future, Inc. v. Coburn" on Justia Law

by
The estate of a driver killed in a vehicle/train collision sued a railroad company in a wrongful death action. The District Court entered judgment on the jury verdict finding the driver and railroad negligent and apportioned fault. The railroad, Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad Company (BNSF) appealed, and also appealed the post-trial order overruling its motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, motion for a new trial. In substance, BNSF contended that federal law preempted the driver's claims, challenged the fairness of the trial proceedings and challenged the amount of damages awarded. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed judgment in favor of the driver's estate. View "Nye v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

by
This case centered on a dispute between Green Meadow Realty Co. (Realtor) and Roger and Mary Gillock (Owners) over Realtor's right to a commission. Realtor sued to recover a commission on a sale to certain buyers that Owners believed were excluded from the listing agreement. Realtor relied on an addendum to the listing agreement that limited the period of time in which an excluded sale could occur as well as the fact that the sale closed outside the time period. Owners claimed they insisted on a complete exclusion and did not knowingly agree to a time limit for the excluded sale, despite having signed the addendum. Owners asserted that they signed the addendum without reading it based on Realtor's representation that it set forth "your exclusion." The trial court concluded Owners were bound by the addendum, having had the opportunity to read it and not doing so. The trial court granted summary judgment to Realtor. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the summary judgment awarding Realtor the commission, but reversed for further proceedings on a counter claim by Owners. Owners sought certiorari review. Realtor did not. The trial court and Court of Civil Appeals regarded Owners' failure to read the addendum when presented with it to be dispositive. The Oklahoma Supreme Court found while this was certainly important, ultimately, the communications and conduct of the parties with respect to the addendum "must be judged in the totality of the circumstances surrounding its creation. The conflicting positions and evidentiary materials of the parties in the case at hand pose a comparable controversy that would preclude summary judgment on Realtor's claim for a commission." View "Green Meadow Realty Co. v. Gillock" on Justia Law

by
Prior to the Oklahoma Voter ID Act, Title 26, Section 7-114 required that "[e]ach person presenting himself to vote shall announce his name to the judge of the precinct, whereupon the judge shall determine whether said person's name is in the precinct registry." In April 2009, the Oklahoma Legislature passed S.B. 692, and referred it for a vote of the people as State Question 746, Legislative Referendum 347. The Voter ID Act was approved on November 2, 2010. The Voter ID Act amended Section 7-114 to require that voters provide proof of identity in the form of a document issued by the United States, the State of Oklahoma, or the government of a federally recognized Indian tribe or nation that showed: (1) the name of the person to whom it was issued (substantially conforming to the name in the precinct registry); (2) a photograph of the person to whom it was issued; and (3) an expiration date after the present election (unless the identification belonged to someone over the age of 65 and is valid indefinitely). The Voter ID Act also provided, as an alternative, that a person could present a voter identification card issued by the appropriate county election board. If a person is unable or unwilling to produce proof of identity, the person could sign a statement under oath swearing that they were the person identified on the precinct registry, then the person will be allowed to cast a provisional ballot. Appellant filed suit against the State Election Board contending that the Voter ID Act was unconstitutional as an interference with the free right to suffrage and equivalent to a poll tax. The Oklahoma County District Court held a hearing on competing motions for summary judgment and determined: venue was proper in Oklahoma County, there was no evidence of any voter fraud in Oklahoma, and there was a question of fact regarding the impact of the Voter ID Act on the right to suffrage which would be determined in an evidentiary hearing. In October 2016, the district court found that Appellant had not met her burden of proof and that based on the evidence presented, the Voter ID Act did not violate the Oklahoma Constitution, and entered judgment for the State Election Board on all claims in the case. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s judgment, the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed. View "Gentges v. Oklahoma Election Bd." on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Octavio Pina was employed as a pipeline installer by American Piping Inspection, Inc. At the time of his injury, he worked at an oilrig site approximately 130 miles away from his home. Petitioner traveled weekly to Employer's drilling site; he would work 6 days then return home on the weekend. Employer provided a daily per diem payment for lodging and meals incurred. Employer used Petitioner's truck to haul work related equipment and materials and paid him $50 per day for the use of his truck. At the time of Petitioner's injury, it was the practice of Employer to pay for the gas necessary to refuel Petitioner's truck each morning before traveling to the rig site. Petitioner was required to stop at the Employer-designated gas station at the time set by the supervisor. Employer also agreed to purchase ice and water each day for the entire crew, but only if they stopped at the designated gas station at the time specified by Employer. Employer had been paying for Petitioner's gasoline for three months prior to his injury. On the morning of September 22, 2014, Petitioner met his supervisor at the designated gas station to get ice, water and gasoline. The supervisor agreed that "Claimant was reporting to work that morning when he made it to the gas station." On his way to the worksite, Petitioner had a collision and sustained serious injuries. Emergency medical care was given and Petitioner was transported via helicopter for medical treatment. Petitioner never arrived at the drilling site that morning. Although Petitioner did not sign the attendance sheet at the rig site that morning, Employer paid him for a full day of work. Petitioner filed a claim for benefits under the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act (AWCA). Employer denied the claim was compensable within the meaning of the AWCA on the following grounds: (1) Petitioner was not performing employment services at the time of injury; and (2) the injury did not occur in the course and scope of employment. The administrative law judge determined Petitioner's injury did not occur in the course and scope of employment within the meaning of the AWCA and denied his claim. The Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed, finding Petitioner was in the course and scope of his employment as the term was defined in 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 sec 2 (13) because his actions at the time of injury were related to and in furtherance of the business of the employer. View "Pina v. American Piping Inspection" on Justia Law

by
James David Lind, Sr. (Decedent) was an employee of Defendant-appellee Barnes Tag Agency Inc. (BTA). Decedent was hired in 2010, to perform maintenance work on property owned individually by Defendant Jim T. Roy Barnes (Barnes), the sole stockholder of BTA. On February 21, 2010, there was an explosion on the property while Decedent was present, resulting in a fire. Descendent sustained severe injuries that led to his death on February 26, 2010. Plaintiff-appellant, the administrator Lind’s estate filed suit against BTA and the sole stockholder, alleging negligence. The defendants moved for summary judgment arguing they possessed immunity from suit pursuant to the provisions of the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Act. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The administrator appealed, arguing the trial court erred by determining that Jim T. Roy Barnes, as the individual owner of the property, was immune from suit. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. The question presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s review in this case was whether the sole shareholder of a corporation, who individually owned the property where an employee of the corporation sustained fatal injuries, was immune from suit for common-law negligence in district court under the provisions of the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Act. The Supreme Court held in the negative: a corporation and its sole owner and shareholder are separate entities and the immunity of the workers' compensation laws that shields the corporation from tort liability to employees does not extend to the owner of the corporation as a third-party landowner. View "Lind v. Barnes Tag Agency" on Justia Law

by
This case involved an order of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission that granted Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company pre-approval to install pollution-control devices at one of its power plants. The order raised two issues: (1) whether res judicata precluded the Commission from pre-approving OG&E's capital expenditure; and (2) whether the Commission could grant pre-approval under Okla. Const. art. 9, section 181 and 17 O.S. 2011 sec. 151 et seq. rather than 17 O.S. 2011 sec. 286(B). The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that although res judicata did not preclude the Commission from pre-approving the expenditure, it lacked authority outside of 17 O.S. 2011 sec. 286(B)2 to do so. View "Sierra Club v. Oklahoma Corporation Comm'n" on Justia Law

by
Within the 2006 through 2010 tax years, the Oklahoma Tax Commission and the Oklahoma State Board of Equalization issued certified assessments of certain public property physically located within the boundaries of the Stroud school district. Ad valorem taxes associated with these properties were distributed by the Lincoln County Treasurer to the Cushing and Wellston districts, instead of to Stroud. The error was discovered and subsequently corrected by the Lincoln County Board of Tax Roll Corrections during the 2010-2011 fiscal year. There was no disagreement among the three school districts that they were not responsible for the errors made in the distribution of the ad valorem taxes. To recover the funds that should have been Stroud's, Stroud sued Cushing and Wellston school districts. Stroud filed its petition on April 22, 2013. The defendant school districts filed a motion for summary judgment in December of 2014. In the same month, the plaintiff responded with its own motion for summary judgment. Stroud received the taxes from the property identified as within its district; Cushing received the taxes from the property identified as within its district; and Wellston received the taxes from the property identified as within its district. The Oklahoma Supreme Court found Stroud received the same amount for its general funds that it would have received had the ad valorem taxes been properly allocated. Nevertheless, it demanded additional funds from Cushing and Wellston that it would have received if the real property had been correctly identified. The Court determined if that amount was paid to Stroud, then Cushing and Wellston would have deficits in those districts that they would not have if the real property had been correctly identified. Stroud did not believe the other two school districts are entitled to a setoff if they paid Stroud the misallocated ad valorem taxes. The Court found all three school districts were victims of this error, but no district failed to receive the funds needed for their respective districts. The Court reversed judgments against the Cushing and Wellston districts and that in favor of Stroud: "county and state officials will make mistakes in the taxing of property and the distribution of taxes." View "Independent Sch. Dist. No. 54 v. Independent Sch. Dist. No. 67" on Justia Law

by
In 2007, plaintiffs-appellants, Taracorp and Tara and Kelly Barlean, (collectively Taracorp) obtained a default judgment against defendants-appellees, Jeff Dailey and AJ's Bargain World in Colorado. Three days later, Taracorp sought to collect on the judgment by filing a lien on the real estate of the judgment debtors in Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma. Taracorp abandoned the Pottawatomie case, but re-filed the Colorado judgment in Marshall County, Oklahoma, nearly nine years later in 2016. The judgment debtors sought to quash the Colorado judgment because Oklahoma's five year limitation for enforcing judgments had lapsed. The trial court agreed, and quashed the Colorado judgment. Taracorp appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals vacated the trial court's ruling and remanded for further proceedings. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari to address whether the Colorado judgment, enforceable in Colorado for twenty years after the judgment, was also enforceable in Oklahoma by re-filing it a second time in Oklahoma, after Oklahoma's five year limitation period for enforcing judgments lapsed. The Supreme Court held that when a judgment creditor seeks to enforce a Colorado judgment a second time in Oklahoma, after Oklahoma's limitation period has lapsed on the original judgment, the underlying original Colorado judgment enforceable for twenty years may be enforced in Oklahoma. View "Taracorp v. Dailey" on Justia Law

by
Insight Equity, a private-equity firm headquartered in Southlake, Texas, purchased Berry Family Nurseries, a nationwide wholesale nursery company headquartered in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, for $160 million. The Purchase Agreement entered into by the parties contained a Texas choice-of-law provision. The Agreement also contained a five-year non-compete provision, prohibiting the owners of Berry Family Nurseries, Bob Berry and Burl Berry, from owning a competing wholesale nursery company for five years. Park Hill Nursery, a nursery also located in Tahlequah, and owned by the Berrys, was not included in the Agreement, but the Agreement allowed the Berrys to continue to own and operate Park Hill Nursery so long as it did not compete with the newly formed BFN Operations. The parties performed under the terms of the Agreement for approximately three years until the Berrys, through Park Hill Nursery, began selling to several of BFN's largest customers. The Berrys sought a declaration that the restrictive covenants were unenforceable and void under Oklahoma law. BFN filed a counterclaim, seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages for the Berrys' breach of the covenants. Upon review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded the Texas choice-of-law provision was valid, and the non-compete was enforceable under Texas law. The Berrys breached the non-compete, and Park Hill Nursery tortiously interfered with the parties' Agreement. BFN was entitled to injunctive relief through December 7, 2015, and was also entitled to monetary damages. The trial court's determination that BFN was entitled to attorney's fees was not a final judgment, and appeal of that issue was deemed premature. View "Berry & Berry Acquisitions v. BFN Properties" on Justia Law