Articles Posted in Oklahoma Supreme Court

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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 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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An employee of a trucking company was killed while on the job at an oil-well site. The employee's surviving daughter brought a wrongful death action against the owner and operator of the well site, Stephens Production Company. Stephens Production Company moved to dismiss the case pursuant to 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 sec. 5(A), which provides 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 denied the motion to dismiss, finding that section 5(A) of Title 85A was an unconstitutional special law. The trial court certified the order for immediate interlocutory review, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari review. The Supreme Court concluded that the last sentence of section 5(A) of Title 85A was an impermissible and unconstitutional special law under Art. 5, section 59 of the Oklahoma Constitution. The last sentence of section 5(A) was severed from the remainder of that provision. View "Strickland v. Stephens Production Co." on Justia Law

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Appellant John Doe filed suit against appellees The First Presbyterian Church U.S.A. ("FPC"), of Tulsa, Oklahoma and its minister, James Miller, based on theories of torts and breach of contract. Doe sought damages arising out of alleged harm he incurred from Appellees' publishing notice of his baptism on the world wide web. Doe claimed that he advised Appellees of the need to keep his baptism private and as confidential as possible. Doe asserted that Appellees assured him that his conversion to Christianity would be held as confidential as possible. Doe alleged that because of Appellees' assurances, he proceeded with baptism by Appellees. Appellant alleged that Appellees' act of publishing the fact of his baptism to the world wide web resulted in his alleged kidnaping and subsequent torture by extremists while he traveled in Syria. The trial court sustained Appellees' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded it was error for the district court to find it had no subject matter jurisdiction to hear Doe's claims on the basis of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. "The record below is replete with contested issues of fact which must be resolved by the trier of fact in an adversarial hearing below." This matter was remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Doe v. The First Presbyterian Church U.S.A. of Tulsa" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant State Farm Automobile Insurance Company, as subrogee of its insured, sued for damages arising out of an automobile accident between the insured and Defendant-appellee Nicholas Payne. The insured, Tori Ukpaka, originally brought this action, but voluntarily dismissed it after the statute of limitations had run. Whether State Farm could revive that claim depended on whether it could take advantage of the Oklahoma savings statute at 12 O.S. sec. 100, which gives "the plaintiff" up to one year from the date of a non-merits-based termination in which to refile an otherwise time-barred claim. In light of the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s “historic” interpretation of that statute, it concluded that because State Farm was "substantially the same, suing in the same right" as its insured for purposes of a subrogation claim, it should be entitled to the same treatment as its insured for purposes of the savings statute. Accordingly, the Court held State Farm’s, filed within one year after its insured voluntarily dismissed the same, was timely. View "State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. v. Payne" on Justia Law

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In 2012, petitioners Saint Francis Hospital, Inc., Neurological Surgery, Inc., and Douglas Koontz, M.D. performed decompressive laminectomies of respondent Johnson John’s spine at the C2-3, C3-4, C4-5, C5-6 and C6-7 regions. After the operation, respondent allegedly became partially paralyzed, suffered constant pain, was hospitalized for four months and submitted to additional medical treatment. Respondent filed suit against petitioners in 2016, alleging negligence, gross negligence, medical malpractice and sought punitive damages for petitioners’ failure to render reasonable medical care, breach of the duty of care owed and respondent’s resulting injuries. In commencing the action, respondent failed to attach an affidavit of merit to the Petition or otherwise comply with Okla. Stat. tit. 12, section 19.1. In lieu of answer, petitioners filed their respective motions to dismiss and asserted, among other things, respondent’s failure to include the statutorily required affidavit of merit or, in the alternative, obtain a statutorily recognized exception. Respondent averred that the statutory directive unconstitutionally restrained a litigant's right to access the courts and was an unconstitutional special law. The district court provided notice to the Attorney General's office concerning the challenged statute. As intervenor, the Attorney General essentially urged the district court to enforce the affidavit requirements. The district court ultimately overruled petitioners’ motions to dismiss, and rejected respondent’s special law challenge. The court determined that section 19.1 unconstitutionally imposed a substantial and impermissible impediment to access to the courts, and this barrier was unconstitutional regardless of the financial worth of a litigant and was not cured by exercising the indigent from this burden. The Oklahoma Supreme Court agreed with the district court’s ruling, and found section 19.1 was an impermissible barrier to court access and an unconstitutional special law. Section 19.1 was therefore stricken. View "John v. St. Francis Hospital" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought an action in the District Court for Custer County and claimed a convenience store negligently and recklessly sold low-point beer to a noticeably intoxicated person who injured plaintiffs in a vehicle collision several hours later. This appeal raised two issues for the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s resolution: (1) whether Oklahoma jurisprudence recognized a cause of action against a commercial vendor of alcohol who sells alcohol to a noticeably intoxicated adult for consumption off of the premises when the sale results in an injury to an innocent third party; and (2) whether the facts submitted during the process for summary judgment were sufficient to show a controverted issue of fact or a difference in inferences sufficient to reverse the trial court's summary judgment. The Supreme Court answered both questions in the affirmative. View "Boyle v. ASAP Energy, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case arose from a motor vehicle accident in 2012. William Taylor was driving a vehicle owned and insured by Guy's Seed Company (Guy's Seed); Appellant Mark Raymond was a passenger in the vehicle driven by Taylor. Both Raymond and Taylor were employees of Guy's Seed. Appellee American Mercury Insurance Company (Mercury) issued a commercial automobile insurance policy to Guy's Seed which provided uninsured/under-insured motorist (UM) coverage of $1,000,000 per accident. Larry Bedell was an employee of BlueKnight Energy Partners (BlueKnight); BlueKnight carried a $1,000,000 primary automobile liability policy and a $40,000,000 excess liability policy. Bedell was driving an oil tanker truck, owned by BlueKnight, and attempted to turn in front of the Guy's Seed vehicle causing a collision. The collision caused an immediate explosion, which resulted in Taylor's death and Raymond suffering significant permanent injuries. Raymond qualified as insured under Mercury's UM coverage. Raymond filed suit against Defendants, Bedell and BlueKnight. Mercury investigated and offered the UM policy limits to Raymond's and Taylor's representatives, paying $500,000 to each. Mercury then intervened in Raymond’s court case seeking subrogation from Defendants for the $500,000 payment made to Raymond under the UM policy. Raymond disputed Mercury's right to subrogation, but Defendants refused to settle unless the settlement amount was inclusive of Mercury's disputed subrogation claim. An agreement was reached where Raymond settled with Defendants for a confidential amount greater than the primary insurance liability limits but less than the excess policy; Defendants paid Raymond the amount of the settlement minus the $500,000 claimed by Mercury. The disputed $500,000 was to be held until there was an agreement or court order as to who was entitled to the funds. The question presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s review centered on whether Mercury was entitled to subrogation for the $500,000 paid. The Supreme Court determined that contrary to Mercury's claims, Raymond was not receiving a windfall here. “Mercury was paid a premium for UM protection and Raymond recovered an amount not covering all of his damages within the limits of the primary liability policy and the UM policy. Raymond has also recovered an amount from the tort-feasor's other assets that, combined with the liability and UM funds, covered his damages. It would be unjust to permit Mercury to avoid its liability with its claim that the tort-feasor's other assets, that happened to be an excess liability policy, removed Mercury's liability thus denying Raymond from receiving that for which Mercury was paid a premium.” View "Raymond v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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The constitutionality of section 57 of the Administrative Worker's Compensation Act (AWCA) came before the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Claimant Brandon Gibby injured his right wrist and left knee in 2014 when he fell three to four feet from a pallet jack while in the course and scope of his employment. Employer, Hobby Lobby Stores, provided temporary total disability and medical benefits. However, when Claimant sought permanent partial disability, Employer asserted that the forfeiture provision, section 57 of the (AWCA) prohibited Claimant from receiving any further workers' compensation benefits because he had missed two or more scheduled medical appointments without a valid excuse or notice to his employer. At trial, Claimant attempted to demonstrate extraordinary circumstances for missing three scheduled medical appointments. The administrative law judge found none and denied the request for permanent partial disability despite the fact there was no dispute that Claimant's injury had left him disabled. The Workers' Compensation Commission affirmed. Following a review of the record on appeal, the transcripts of the proceedings below, and the briefs of the parties and amici, the Supreme Court held the forfeiture provision found at section 57 of title 85A violated the adequate remedy provision of Article II, section 6, of the Oklahoma Constitution. The section 57 forfeiture provision was therefore stricken in its entirety. View "Gibby v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims determined Jolid Mackey was a physically impaired person at the time of his last injury to his left shoulder in 2013. His physically impaired status was based on several adjudications of disability that predated the last injury as provided in 85 O.S.2011, section 402(A)(4). The Court further determined that he was permanently totally disabled as a result of combining the previously adjudicated disability with the disability from the last injury. The Court thereupon entered an award against the Multiple Injury Trust Fund (MITF). The Court of Civil Appeals interpreted a proviso in 402(A)(4), as limiting use of previously adjudicated disability for determining combined disability. The Court of Civil Appeals concluded that only previously adjudicated disability in the same body part as affected by the last injury could be combined. Noting that none of Mackey's prior adjudications involved disability to the left shoulder, the Court of Civil Appeals vacated the award against MITF. Certiorari from the Oklahoma Supreme Court was granted to resolve the conflict created by the Court of Civil Appeals opinions in this case and in Multiple Injury Trust Fund v. Wiggins, 2017 OK 76 (decided September 26, 2017). The Supreme Court held the Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims did not err in determining that Mackey had sustained permanent total disability as the result of the combined effect of previously adjudicated disabilities and his last job-related injury in 2013 to his left shoulder. Accordingly, the Court reinstated and sustained the award of permanent total disability against the Multiple Injury Trust Fund. View "Multiple Injury Trust Fund v. Mackey" on Justia Law