Articles Posted in Oklahoma Supreme Court

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The main issue on certiorari review was whether the doctrine of informed consent required a physician to obtain the patient's consent before using a non-doctor to perform significant portions of a surgery for which the physician was engaged to perform thereby subjecting the patient to a heightened risk of injury. Dr. Mary Kirk, Dana Hurley's gynecologist, recommended Hurley undergo a total laparoscopic hysterectomy. Hurley agreed and Dr. Kirk scheduled the operation. In coordinating the surgery, Dr. Kirk specifically requested Art Bowen to assist with the operation. At the time of Dr. Kirk's request, Bowen had previously assisted Dr. Kirk in approximately 40 to 50 cases of which 90 percent were hysterectomies. Bowen, however, was neither Dr. Kirk's nor the hospital's employee. Bowen worked completely under the supervision and guidance of the employing surgeon. There was conflicting evidence as to whom, Dr. Kirk or Bowen, caused Hurley's injury. Dr. Kirk denied Bowen injured Hurley's right ureter despite her concession that Bowen performed the right side of the hysterectomy with the harmonic scalpel. Yet, Bowen's initial discovery response indicated Bowen's admission that he caused the injury. Both Dr. Kirk and Bowen conceded, however, that Bowen used the harmonic scalpel to cauterize and cut the round ligament, utero ovarian pedicle, broad ligament, and uterine artery. After reviewing the record in this case, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found that under Oklahoma's full disclosure rule, a physician must disclose and obtain the patient's informed consent. The Court reemphasized that full disclosure of all material risks incident to treatment must be made. "As such, no physician has carte blanche to delegate any or all tasks to a non-doctor. To hold otherwise, would obliterate a patient's freedom of choice and reinstate the paternalistic approach to medicine this Court rejected." The scope of the duty to inform is broad enough to include a physician's duty to inform the patient "who" will be performing significant portions of the procedure or surgical tasks. The Court of the Civil Appeals' opinion was vacated and the district court's summary judgment order was reversed as to all issues. This matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Hurley v. Kirk" on Justia Law

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Parents sued medical providers for injuries sustained during their child's birth, alleging negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment to defendant Mercy Health Center. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing the trial court did not apply a correct standard for causation and failed to recognize the testimony from their expert witnesses. Mercy argued the trial court correctly sustained a motion for summary judgment which relied in part on a “Daubert” motion filed by Mercy. Mercy also argued plaintiffs failed to show causation, as required in a negligence action by an expert opinion. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed the summary judgment because plaintiffs' materials used to object to summary judgment showed expert opinions on causation sufficient to create a question of fact. The Court also explained a Daubert adjudication may not be applied retroactively to support a prior judgment. View "Andrew v. Depani-Sparkes" on Justia Law

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Appellant John Doe filed suit against Appellees, a church and its minister, alleging torts and breach of contract after he was baptized and notice of his baptism was published on the internet, resulting in his alleged kidnapping and torture by extremists while travelling in Syria. The trial court sustained Appellees' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Appellant appealed. The question presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s review was whether the church autonomy doctrine, rooted in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, barred the courts from considering Appellant’s claims against Defendants-Appellees. The Supreme Court held that it does. View "Doe v. First Presbyterian Church U.S.A. of Tulsa" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Rodney Stanley Brown was employed by Respondent Claims Management Resources (CMR) as a claims adjuster. Brown suffered personal injury to his left knee. At the time Brown was injured, he finished his workday, clocked out, was leaving the office for the day when he fell while descending an interior stairwell. Brown's work area was on the second floor of the building where he worked, and CMR occupied the entire floor. Brown was unable to conclusively identify any factor that might have caused his fall. While admitting an injury occurred, CMR asserted Brown's injury was not compensable within the meaning of the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act (AWCA). A hearing on the matter was held before the Administrative Law Judge, and after considering the parties' stipulations, evidence, and arguments, the Administrative Law Judge concluded that Brown had failed to meet his burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that he suffered a compensable injury within the meaning of the AWCA. The Supreme Court concluded after its review that Brown was acting in the course and scope of his employment, and his injury was a compensable injury. The Workers' Compensation Commission’s interpretation of 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 sections 2(9) & (13) was legally incorrect and its order denying compensability was clearly erroneous in view of the competent evidence presented. Because relief was available on alternative grounds, the Court did not reach the constitutional issues presented. View "Brown v. Claims Management Resources, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Malinda Falcone brought an insurance claim against defendants-appellees for payment of her emergency room medical expenses. Her claim was made pursuant to the Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM) provisions of her mother's automobile insurance policy following the injuries she sustained as a passenger in her mother's car when an uninsured driver ran a stop sign and collided with them. Defendants initially questioned the decision to refer Plaintiff to the level 2 trauma center of the emergency room and refused to pay the bill Plaintiff received from the OU Medical Center trauma center. After nearly a year of offers and rejections, Plaintiff sued for breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing for failing to pay her trauma room "compensatory damages" as required under the policy. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants and denied Plaintiff's motion for new trial. After review, the Supreme Court held that it was a question for the trier of fact whether defendants showed a lack of good faith in handling Plaintiff's claim for payment. The trial court erred in granting summary judgment in defendants' favor, holding as a matter of law that defendants did not commit the tort of bad faith. View "Falcone v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Insured Kourtni Martin suffered serious injuries from an automobile collision in Oklahoma City with Nicholas Gray. At the time of the collision, Insured had UM coverage with Goodville Mutual Casualty Company. The policy was purchased by her parents while they lived in Kansas. She was, however, a listed/rated driver in the policy. Before the collision, Martin's parents notified the Kansas agent that she was moving to Oklahoma to live with her grandmother and that her vehicle would be garaged in Oklahoma. After the collision, the claim was reported to the agent in Kansas who then transmitted the claim to Insurer which was located principally in Pennsylvania. The claim was adjusted out of Pennsylvania. Martin was unable to locate Gray. Her attempts to serve Gray, or his insurer, in Oklahoma and Texas failed. Martin filed this lawsuit against Gray alleging negligence (later adding breach of contract and bad faith against her Insurer). After service by publication, Gray answered asserting a general denial. Martin sought compensation from the Insurer pursuant to her UM policy and negotiations began between Insured and Insurer regarding medical bills and projected future medical bills substantially in excess of $100,000. Insurer offered $27,000 for medical expenses under the "Kansas No Fault Benefits" and $10,000 in UM coverage. The trial court, after reviewing the policy at issue here, applied Kansas law to this case and dismissed Martin's bad faith claim against the Insurer (with prejudice). After review, however, the Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in applying Kansas law, finding that the actions by Insurer related to the bad-faith claim appear to have occurred primarily in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania: (1) any injury from the alleged bad faith occurred in Oklahoma where Insured is located; (2) the alleged conduct causing injury from bad faith occurred in Oklahoma or Pennsylvania, where the claim was handled; (3) the domicile of Insurer and Insured are Pennsylvania and Oklahoma, respectively, and (4) the place where the relationship between the parties occurred had yet to be determined. However, because the trial court did not apply the "most significant relationship test," there was no evaluation of these factors according to their relative importance. Despite the parties' voluntary settlement of this case, the Supreme Court nevertheless remanded this case for the trial court to make findings with respect to the "most significant relationship test," and then to dismiss. View "Martin v. Gray" on Justia Law

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While operating a large auger, James Neece, an employee of the plaintiff-appellee C&H Power Line Construction Company, ruptured an underground high pressure natural gas line belonging to the defendants-appellants Enterprise Products Operating, LLC. The blast killed Neece and damaged and destroyed equipment belonging to the plaintiff, which claimed that the accident was caused by the negligence, negligence per se, and gross negligence of the defendants for failure to mark the pipeline after they had been notified of the intention to dig in the area of their pipeline. Plaintiff claimed loss of its business as a result of the accident. The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff for $26 million and punitive damages of $1 million. Defendants raised issues regarding jury instructions, denial by the trial court of their motion for directed verdict, exclusion of evidence offered by the appellants, inclusion of inadmissible evidence, acceptance of a less than unanimous verdict, and awarding improper interest on the judgment, as grounds for appeal. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "C&H Power Line Construction Co. v. Enterprise Products Operating, LLC" on Justia Law

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The primary question before the Oklahoma Supreme Court in this case was the constitutionality of 12 O.S. 2011 section 3009.1, limiting the admissibility of evidence of medical costs in personal injury actions. In 2014, plaintiff-petitioner Jhonhenri Lee was involved in a motor vehicle collision with defendant-respondent Diana Catalina Bueno. Lee was driving a vehicle that was struck from behind by a vehicle driven by Bueno. The collision pushed Lee's vehicle into the vehicle in front of him. After the collision, Lee sought medical treatment for injuries he sustained. At the time of the collision, Lee was insured under a policy with Blue Cross Blue Shield. Lee filed suit against Bueno alleging he sustained injuries for which he incurred property damage, medical expenses, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and was prevented from transacting business, as a result of Bueno's actions and non-actions. Lee claimed damages in excess of $25,000. Prior to the commencement of discovery, Lee filed a Motion for Declaratory Relief Regarding the Constitutionality of 12 O.S. 2011 sec. 3009.1, asserting he incurred approximately $10,154 in medical expenses for treatment of injuries caused by Bueno's alleged negligence, and $8,112.81 in expenses submitted to his insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, who paid $2,845.11. Lee argued in his motion that 12 O.S. 2011 section 3009.1 was: (1) unconstitutional as a special law in violation of Okla. Const. art. 5, section 46; (2) unconstitutional because it violated his right to due process and a trial by jury; and (3) because it was unconstitutional, the collateral source rule should apply. The Supreme Court determined plaintiff did not meet the burden required to demonstrate the unconstitutionality of the statute, and the statute controlled over the collateral source rule to the extent the two might conflict. View "Lee v. Bueno" on Justia Law

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Jonnie Vasquez, a Dillard's store employee, injured her neck and shoulder as she lifted shoe boxes while working. She filed claims for benefits under Dillard's Opt-Out plan, which were ultimately denied. The employer sought removal to federal court on grounds that the federal court had exclusive jurisdiction under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The United States District Court for the Western District disagreed and remanded the case to the Workers' Compensation Commission. The Commission found that the Opt Out Act: (1) constituted an unconstitutional special law; (2) denied equal protection to Oklahoma's injured workers; and (3) denied injured workers the constitutionally protected right of access to courts. Dillard's appealed. At issue was a challenge to the constitutionality of the Opt Out Act. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded that the core provision of the Opt Out Act, created impermissible, unequal, disparate treatment of a select group of injured workers. Therefore, the Court held that the Oklahoma Employee Benefit Injury Act was an unconstitutional special law under the Oklahoma Constitution, art. 2, section 59.3. View "Vasquez v. Dillard's Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellant-plaintiff Robert Leritz was a Kansas resident whose motorcycle and two other vehicles were garaged in Kansas under an insurance policy issued by Appellee, Farmers Insurance Company (Farmers) in Kansas. Plaintiff was injured in a motorcycle accident in Oklahoma when Defendant Larry Yates made a left hand turn and collided with Plaintiff causing serious bodily injuries. Plaintiff brought this action alleging that he had incurred medical expenses and suffered damages exceeding Yates's liability coverage. There was a question as to whether he could stack his uninsured motorist (UM) coverage based on his ownership of policies on each of his three vehicles. Oklahoma allowed the practice, until the Oklahoma Legislature amended the UM provision in 2014. Kansas did not allow stacking. The trial court granted summary judgment to the insurer and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed, applying the insurer's proposed solution to a perceived conflict of laws issue. The Oklahoma Supreme Court found no conflict of laws issue on these facts because the policy specified which law would apply to an issue of stacking of policies. Giving the policy provisions effect made a choice of law analysis unnecessary; the Court vacated the Court of Civil Appeals, reversed the district court and remanded for further proceedings. View "Leritz v. Farmers Insurance Company, Inc." on Justia Law