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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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On December 20, 2017, Respondents Michael Thompson, Ray Potts, and Mary Lynn Peacher (collectively, Proponents) filed Initiative Petition No. 416, State Question No. 795 (IP 416) with the Oklahoma Secretary of State. IP 416 would create a new Article XIII-C in the Oklahoma Constitution. IP 416 contains 8 sections, which Proponents asserted will levy a new 5% gross production tax on oil and gas production from certain wells, and provide for the deposit of the proceeds primarily in a new fund entitled the "Oklahoma Quality Instruction Fund" (the Fund). Monies from the Fund would be distributed: (1) 90% to Oklahoma common school districts to increase compensation and benefits for certified personnel, and the hiring, recruitment and retention thereof; and (2) 10% to the State Department of Education to promote school readiness, and to support compensation for instructors and other instructional expenses in "high-quality early learning centers" for at-risk children prior to entry into the common education system. The opponent petitioners alleged the gist of the petition was insufficient and misleading. Upon review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held the gist of the petition was legally sufficient. View "McDonald v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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On December 20, 2017, Respondents Michael Thompson, Ray Potts, and Mary Lynn Peacher (collectively, Proponents) filed Initiative Petition No. 416, State Question No. 795 (IP 416) with the Oklahoma Secretary of State. IP 416 would create a new Article XIII-C in the Oklahoma Constitution. IP 416 contains 8 sections, which Proponents asserted will levy a new 5% gross production tax on oil and gas production from certain wells, and provide for the deposit of the proceeds primarily in a new fund entitled the "Oklahoma Quality Instruction Fund" (the Fund). Monies from the Fund would be distributed: (1) 90% to Oklahoma common school districts to increase compensation and benefits for certified personnel, and the hiring, recruitment and retention thereof; and (2) 10% to the State Department of Education to promote school readiness, and to support compensation for instructors and other instructional expenses in "high-quality early learning centers" for at-risk children prior to entry into the common education system. The opponent petitioners alleged the gist of the petition was insufficient and misleading. Upon review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held the gist of the petition was legally sufficient. View "McDonald v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit certified a question of Oklahoma law to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Plaintiff-Appellant Perry Odom was an employee of Penske Logistics, LLC. Penske Logistics, LLC was a wholly owned subsidiary of Defendant-Appellee Penske Truck Leasing Co. (PTLC). After a trailer owned by PTLC fell on Odom and injured him, he filed a claim against his employer, Penske Logistics, LLC, pursuant to the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act (AWCA). However, plaintiff and his wife Carolyn (collectively, the Odoms) also filed a lawsuit against PTLC in federal district court, alleging PTLC's tortious negligence caused Perry Odom's injury. The federal appellate court asked whether under Oklahoma’s dual-capacity doctrine, an employer who was generally immune from tort liability could become liable to its employee as a third-party tortfeasor, if it occupies, in addition to its capacity as an employer, a second capacity that confers obligations independent of those imposed on it as an employer. The Court asked what was the effect of Oklahoma's Administrative Workers' Compensation Act (AWCA) on the dual-capacity doctrine, and whether the AWCA abrogated the dual-capacity doctrine as to an employer's stockholder. The Oklahoma Court found the AWCA abrogated the dual-capacity doctrine with regards to employers. Title 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 § 5(A) did not bar an employee from bringing a cause of action in tort against a stockholder of their employer for independent tortious acts when the stockholder is not acting in the role of employer. View "Odom v. Penske Truck Leasing Co." on Justia Law

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In 2013, Frank Benedetti, an employee of Schlumberger Technology Corporation, was working on an oil rig near El Reno, Oklahoma, when he slipped on an icy platform and fell more than thirty feet down a stairwell. Benedetti sued Cimarex Energy Company, the owner and operator of the well site, and Cactus Drilling Company, the owner and operator of the oil rig, for negligence. Cimarex moved to dismiss pursuant to 85 O.S. 2011 section 302(H), which provided that "any operator or owner of an oil or gas well . . . shall be deemed to be an intermediate or principal employer" for purposes of extending immunity from civil liability. The district court granted the motion to dismiss, and Benedetti appealed. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. Pursuant to the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision in Strickland v. Stephens Production Co., 2018 OK 6, ___ P.3d ___, the Supreme Court concluded section 302(H) of Title 85 was an impermissible and unconstitutional special law under Art. 5, section 59 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Subsection (H) was severed from the remainder of that provision. View "Benedetti v. Cimarex Energy Co." on Justia Law