Justia Oklahoma Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

by
Several school districts in Oklahoma launched a legal action claiming they had received insufficient State Aid payments for several years due to incorrect calculation by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. They sought to compel the Oklahoma State Board of Education to recover excessive State Aid payments made to other school districts and redirect them to the underfunded districts. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the intervening school districts, stating that the State Board of Education had no duty to seek repayment of excessive State Aid payments until an audit approved by the State Auditor and Inspector was performed.The case was brought before the Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma, which agreed with the lower court. However, the court raised the issue of the school districts' standing to compel legislative appropriations and remanded the case for adjudication of standing. Upon remand, the district court granted summary judgment to the appellees, concluding that the school districts failed to demonstrate that they initiated their action before the expiry of any State Aid appropriations from which they sought additional funds. The case was dismissed based on the school districts' lack of standing.On appeal, the Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma affirmed the lower court's decision, holding that the school districts lacked a legally cognizable aggrieved interest and therefore didn't have standing. The court stated that the school districts sought funds that were previously appropriated and had now lapsed. Hence, the districts had no cause of action to obtain legislatively appropriated funds because those funds had expired by application of the Oklahoma Constitution. View "INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT #52 OF OKLAHOMA COUNTY v. WALTERS" on Justia Law

by
In this case, the Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma addressed a claim brought by a mother seeking recovery for the loss of her minor child who had drowned in a neighbor's swimming pool. The mother alleged negligence against the property owner, claiming that the swimming pool was an "attractive nuisance." Initially, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the property owner, arguing that the owner did not owe a duty to the child. The mother appealed the decision, leading the Court of Civil Appeals to reverse the district court's judgment, positing that whether the swimming pool was an attractive nuisance was a fact for the jury to decide.Upon review, the Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma held that the swimming pool was not an attractive nuisance as a matter of law. The court observed that the pool did not contain any hidden or unusual element of danger. However, the court also determined that a question of fact remained regarding whether the owner could be held liable under ordinary premises liability law. This conclusion barred summary judgment in favor of the property owner.Thus, while the Court affirmed the district court's judgment concerning the attractive nuisance claim, it reversed the decision on the issue of ordinary premises liability. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court's opinion. It was noted that these circumstances would allow a jury to evaluate all surrounding facts in determining liability under ordinary premises liability law. View "Brown v. Dempster" on Justia Law

by
This case involves Jade P. Schiewe and Zachary Pfaff, who filed a lawsuit against the Cessna Aircraft Company, alleging negligence after a plane crash in September 2010. The plaintiffs were flying a Cessna 172RG when a fire erupted in the cockpit, leading to a crash landing. They claimed that Cessna was negligent in not updating its service manual to include a new part and its installation instructions. Cessna, however, filed a motion for summary judgment, contending that the plaintiffs' claims were barred by the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994 (GARA), an act that limits liability for aircraft manufacturers 18 years after the delivery of the aircraft to its first purchaser.The Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma affirmed the lower court's decision to grant summary judgment in favor of Cessna. The court held that the service manual was created by Cessna in its capacity as a manufacturer, and thus, was included within the limitation period provided in GARA. The court further found that Cessna had not added or omitted anything to the service manual that was a proximate cause of the accident, and thus, the GARA statute of repose did not restart. Therefore, the plaintiffs' claims were barred by GARA as the statute of repose had expired. View "SCHIEWE v. CESSNA AIRCRAFT CO" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma affirmed the termination of a mother's parental rights in a case concerning two deprived children. The mother, Brianna Tatum, had sought certiorari review from the Court of Civil Appeals' opinion which upheld the trial court's final order terminating her parental rights. On certiorari, Tatum claimed that the record did not support a finding that she had waived her right to a jury trial in a parental termination proceeding.The case hinged on two key questions: whether a Court Minute memorializing a contemporaneous court proceeding could support a party's oral consent to waive a jury trial in a parental termination proceeding, and whether a party who proceeds to trial without demanding a jury trial or objecting to a non-jury trial has waived any right to a jury trial. The Court answered both questions affirmatively.The Court found that Tatum had waived her right to a jury trial by her conduct, proceeding with the non-jury trial without any demand for a jury trial or raising an objection to the non-jury trial. Furthermore, the Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in proceeding with a non-jury trial. Therefore, the opinion of the Court of Civil Appeals was vacated, and the judgment of the trial court terminating Tatum's parental rights was affirmed. View "IN THE MATTER OF E.J.T." on Justia Law

by
In this case, the Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma considered whether an ongoing investigation into potential criminal charges constituted a "pending charge" for the purposes of expungement. The appellant, Andrew Dale Brassfield, sought to expunge his arrest records under Oklahoma law. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation objected, arguing that Brassfield was not qualified for expungement because he had pending charges against him due to an ongoing investigation by the federal government and the Cherokee Tribe. The district court and Court of Civil Appeals affirmed this decision.However, the Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma reversed these decisions. The court held that an ongoing investigation into potential criminal charges is not a pending charge under the relevant Oklahoma statute, and therefore, the appellant qualified to seek expungement. The court reasoned that a criminal investigation into whether an individual's conduct is chargeable as a crime is not the same as the individual having a pending felony or misdemeanor charge. The court also found that the requirement that the prosecuting agency will not refile the charge is satisfied, as the State of Oklahoma lacks jurisdiction to do so in this case. The court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "BRASSFIELD v. STATE" on Justia Law

by
An ambulance, driven by an employee of the Jackson County Emergency Medical Services District (JCEMSD) in the State of Oklahoma, collided with a turnpike tollbooth, injuring the toll-worker. The toll-worker filed a lawsuit against the ambulance driver and the JCEMSD. The JCEMSD sought to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that it was entitled to governmental immunity under the Governmental Tort Claims Act (GTCA), and that the Act prohibited recovery because the toll-worker had already recovered workers compensation benefits. The trial court denied the dismissal, leading the JCEMSD to file an Application to Assume Original Jurisdiction and Petition for Writ of Prohibition in the Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma to prevent the trial court from proceeding further.The Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma assumed original jurisdiction and granted the writ of prohibition. The court held that although the JCEMSD is a unique entity, it is subject to lawsuits through its board of trustees to the same extent as any Oklahoma municipality or county, pursuant to the Okla. Const. art. 10, §9C. The court also held that the GTCA is applicable to preclude recovery, as the toll-worker had already received workers compensation benefits. View "JACKSON COUNTY EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICE DISTRICT v. KIRKLAND" on Justia Law

by
The dispute revolves around which of two oil and gas leases controls the royalty payments for nine wells collectively called the Bernhardt Wells. The Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma affirmed the trial court's summary judgment in favor of defendant, Devon Energy Production Company, L.P. The plaintiffs, trustees of The Eunice S. Justice Amended, Revised, and Restated 1990 Revocable Trust Agreement, argued that a 1978 Lease entitles them to a 3/16 royalty, while Devon maintained that a 1973 Lease, entitling the Trust to a 1/8 royalty, controls. The court found that the dispute over which lease controls is best characterized as a quiet title claim, subject to a 15-year statute of limitations, which began when the injury occurred in 1978. Thus, the Trust's quiet title claim, filed more than 15 years later, was time-barred. The court also held that the trial court did not err in denying the Trust's motion to compel the production of various title opinions in Devon's possession. View "BASE v. DEVON ENERGY PRODUCTION" on Justia Law

by
In Oklahoma, a woman suffering from various progressive, degenerative diseases executed an advance directive instructing that her life not be extended by life-sustaining treatment, including artificially administered nutrition and hydration. Later, she was hospitalized and a PEG tube was inserted to provide artificially administered nutrition and hydration, contrary to the terms of her advance directive. The woman's sister and children disagreed on whether to keep the PEG tube in place or follow the instructions in the advance directive. The Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma held that an incapacitated or incompetent person retains the legal right to revoke their advance directive and that revocation of an advance directive must be proven by clear and convincing evidence. The court affirmed the decision of the lower court, which had found that the woman had not revoked her advance directive and that the insertion of the PEG tube violated the terms of her advance directive. View "IN RE GUARDIANSHIP OF L.A.C." on Justia Law

by
In this case, the petitioner, Gary Stricklen, filed a claim for permanent total disability with the Workers' Compensation Commission, which was dismissed by an administrative law judge. The Multiple Injury Trust Fund (MITF) argued it was not liable because all of Stricklen's injuries occurred while he was employed by the same employer. The Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma held that the phrase "subsequent employer" in 85A O.S.Supp.2019 § 32 refers to the employer at the time of the employee's "subsequent injury" referenced in the same statute, which is used for the purpose of that statute for a claim against the MITF. The court reversed the Commission's order that was based on the erroneous view of the statutory language and remanded the case for further proceedings. The petitioner's constitutional issue was not addressed because the court's interpretation of the statutory language did not require it. View "STRICKLEN v. MULTIPLE INJURY TRUST FUND" on Justia Law

by
In a collision involving a sedan owned by Murray State College and a semi truck and trailer owned by Frank Bartel Transportation (FBT), the college employee driving the sedan was killed and the FBT vehicle was destroyed. FBT submitted a claim under the Governmental Tort Claims Act (GTCA) to the State of Oklahoma Risk Management Department of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES), which offered to settle for $25,000. FBT refused the offer, arguing that it sustained additional consequential damages of $68,636.61 for towing, vehicle storage, and vehicle rental. In a case of first impression, the Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma held that these consequential damages fell within the "any other loss" provision of Section 154(A)(2) of the GTCA, and thus FBT's recovery was subject to that statute's $125,000 cap. The court reversed the trial court's decision which found that FBT's damages were all for loss of property and subject to the Section 154(A)(1) cap of $25,000. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "FRANK BARTEL TRANSPORTATION v. STATE" on Justia Law