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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

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Plaintiff-respondents filed this negligence suit alleging that minor plaintiff, H.R., was struck by a car driven by Defendant Alexandria Maze, after H.R. exited from a school bus operated by Defendant Norman Public Schools. Defendants Lance and Cheryl Maze, the driver's parents, moved to dismiss the claims of infliction of emotional distress against them. The trial court denied their motion but certified its order as immediately appealable. The school also sought dismissal of the claims against it. The trial court granted dismissal of the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against the school but denied dismissal of the remaining claims. The dispositive issue in both appeals centers on whether the bystander plaintiffs, who were not involved in the auto-pedestrian traffic accident but say they witnessed it from the window of their house, can recover against the defendants for infliction of emotional distress. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found Oklahoma law required the dismissal of the emotional distress claims at issue here. Under Oklahoma law, infliction of emotional distress was established when (1) the plaintiff was directly physically involved in the incident, (2) the plaintiff was injured from actually viewing the injury, and (3) a close personal relationship exists between the victim and the plaintiff. The Court found the bystander Plaintiffs were not directly involved in the accident which injured H.R. and their claims for negligent and intentional emotional distress against Driver's Parents had to be dismissed. Further, because Plaintiffs' allegations could accommodate a set of facts which would be actionable in negligence, the Court could not find that the petition did not state a cause of action in negligence against the school. Accordingly, the trial court was reversed as to its rulings on the infliction of emotional distress claims, and affirmed the denial of the dismissal as to the remaining negligence claims against NPS. View "Ridings v. Maze" on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari to address whether defendants-appellees, whose products were used to make an ambulance helicopter, had sufficient minimum contacts with the State of Oklahoma in order to establish personal jurisdiction over them after the helicopter crashed in Oklahoma, killing two Oklahoma residents. This case arose out of a crash in 2013. The pilot, Mark Montgomery (pilot), and his crew, responded to an emergency medical transport call at Integris Baptist Hospital in Oklahoma City, for Watonga, Oklahoma. The crash killed two Oklahoma residents who were onboard the helicopter: the pilot, and the flight nurse, Chris Denning. The onboard flight paramedic, Billy Wynne, survived with severe injuries which resulted in amputation. The crash destroyed the helicopter. Allegedly, the crash was witnessed by dozens of Oklahoma residents. EagleMed, L.L.C. a Delaware incorporated L.L.C. with its principal place of business in Wichita, Kansas, employed the Oklahoma pilot and the crew. EagleMed operated a helicopter ambulance service for the region. The crash was allegedly caused by an air intake defect which allowed ice to accumulate in the air inlet and enter the compressor, causing the engine to flame out and crash. Airbus Helicopters SAS, a French Company, designed and manufactured the accident helicopter in France, and sold it to the appellee, Airbus Helicopters, Inc. (Airbus), a Grand Prairie, Texas, company. The original engine was replaced by Honeywell International, Inc. of Morristown, New Jersey, who designed and manufactured the replacement engine. An Olympia, Washington company, Soloy, L.L.C. provided the engineering and design for installation of the engine. In 2004, Airbus sold the helicopter, an AS350B, to Ballard Aviation, Inc. d/b/a EagleMed. Airbus delivered the helicopter in an unassembled condition to Texas for shipment, but it did not make the arrangements for it to be delivered to Wichita, Kansas. Rather, the Airbus standard practice was to deliver their helicopters to their place of business in Texas, and have the buyers handle any further transportation services. The purchase agreement between EagleMed and Airbus contained a forum selection and choice of law clause regarding any litigation to take place in Texas. The crew’s survivors all sued Airbus, Airbus SAS, Soloy, and Honeywell for wrongful death, negligence, and products liability in Texas. They also filed suit in Oklahoma when the Texas suit was dismissed under forum non conveniens. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held defendants did not have sufficient minimum contacts in order to establish personal jurisdiction over them in Oklahoma. View "Montgomery v. Airbus Helicopters, Inc." on Justia Law

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Initiative Petition No. 415, State Question No. 793, proposed to amend Article 20 of the Oklahoma Constitution by adding a new Section 3. The purpose of the amendment was to merge the rights and restrictions placed on optometrists and opticians, while eliminating restraints on the ability to practice their professions in retail mercantile establishments. A protest was filed contesting the validity of the initiative petition as unconstitutional logrolling in violation of the general subject requirement mandated in Okla. Const. art. 24, sec. 1. The sole issue presented for consideration, restated, was whether Initiative Petition No. 415, State Question No. 793, satisfied the single subject requirement of article 24, section 1, of the Oklahoma Constitution. The Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded that the proposed amendment embraced one general subject and therefore complied with article 24, section 1, of the Oklahoma Constitution. View "Oklahoma Assoc. of Optometric Physicians v. Raper" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Stacy Gaasch, as personal representative for the Estate of Troy Gaasch, filed suit against St. Paul File and Marine Insurance Company, alleging the insurance company failed to timely provide reasonable and necessary medical treatment as ordered by the Workers' Compensation Court. Troy required multiple surgeries over several years due to his work-related injury. Troy was hospitalized due to his work-related injury. He allegedly became malnourished with accompanying weight loss and different physicians recommended a nutritional consult. A nurse case manager recommended monthly a nutritional consult. Troy died during his hospitalization approximately six months after the initial recommendation for a nutritional consult. Prior to his work-related injury, Troy underwent a gastric bypass surgery and allegedly suffered from a malabsorption syndrome secondary to this surgery. A disagreement arose between insurer and Troy concerning whether the insurer was required to pay for a nutritional consult. Insurer claimed Troy's nutritional problems were created prior to his work-related injury and his nutritional state in the hospital was not due to the work-related injury. The company moved for summary judgment which was granted. Plaintiff appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held: (1) Plaintiff's district court action alleging breach of contract also included a request for damages resulting from the death of the workers' compensation claimant; (2) the district court action was based upon alleged delay by a workers' compensation insurer in providing medical care as previously awarded by the Worker's Compensation Court; and (3) the district court action against the workers' compensation insurer was precluded by an exclusive remedy provided by the Workers' Compensation Act. “Plaintiff attempts to go around this procedure we classified as a ‘jurisdictional requirement’ . . .by characterizing the claim as a breach of contract and an action for damages resulting from an alleged wrongful death. The clear public policy expressed in the amended version of Art. 23 sec. 7 requires available workers' compensation remedies for any type of wrongful death claim to be pursued in the Workers' Compensation Court when required by the workers' compensation statutes.” View "Gaasch v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Elizabeth Cates was a former patient of defendant-appellee Integris Health, Inc.’s medical facility and claimed defendant wrongfully billed her, and others like her, for services. She filed this action in state court, alleging state-law claims for breach of contract, violation of the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act, and deceit. Defendant successfully moved to dismiss these claims on the ground that they were expressly preempted by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act. On appeal, the Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed and held that plaintiff’s claims were not preempted. The case was returned to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Cates v. Integris Health, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Elizabeth Cates was a former patient of defendant-appellee Integris Health, Inc.’s medical facility and claimed defendant wrongfully billed her, and others like her, for services. She filed this action in state court, alleging state-law claims for breach of contract, violation of the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act, and deceit. Defendant successfully moved to dismiss these claims on the ground that they were expressly preempted by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act. On appeal, the Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed and held that plaintiff’s claims were not preempted. The case was returned to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Cates v. Integris Health, Inc." on Justia Law

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The probate court disqualified one of two co-personal representatives nominated in decedent's will. The disqualified nominee had a felony conviction for DUI. The probate court ruled that this was a conviction for an infamous crime as provided in 58 O.S.2011, section 102(2), and as defined in In re Dunham's Estate, 74 P.2d 117, and Briggs v. Board of County Commissioners, 217 P.2d 827. The disqualified nominee appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court retained the appeal because the change in case law that Bishop sought could only be ordered by the Supreme Court. Upon review, the Court declined to grant her relief: “the Legislature has tacitly approved the ‘Dunham’ interpretation of infamous crime to mean a felony under Oklahoma law. [. . .] Bishop admits that she has a felony conviction under Oklahoma law for D.U.I. and thus has a conviction for an infamous crime. By the express command of statute, she is not competent to serve as an executor.” View "In the Matter of the Estate of Middleton" on Justia Law