Oklahoma has several news laws that went into effect on November 1, 2018. Below is a brief synopsis of the laws:
The Oklahoma Court recently held that a business negligently entrusting an employee with a vehicle can be held liable for a separate and distinct claim from the respondent superior doctrine if the employee is involved in a crash.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court issued an Opinion on September 18, 2018 in Fox v. Mize that an employer's liability for negligently entrusting a vehicle to an unfit employee is a separate and distinct theory of liability from that of an employer's liability under the respondeat superior doctrine. Even an employer's stipulation that an accident occurred during the course and scope of employment does not bar a separate negligent entrustment claim.
What is the respondeat superior doctrine (also called vicarious liability)? The term Respondeat Superior is Latin that translates to “Let the Master Speak for Himself”. This law requires an employer to be liable for the acts of an employee if the act was conducted within the scope of their employment.
This case arose when a truck driver was in an accident that killed a motorcyclist while the truck driver was driving for his employer. The administrator of the deceased estate brought a lawsuit for negligence against the truck driver and against the employer under the respondeat superior theory. The administrator also sued the employer for negligent entrustment of allowing the driver to drive the businesses vehicle.
The court held that this was proper because the negligence claim under the respondeat superior theory was for a separate and distinct act than the act of negligently entrusting the driver to drive the business vehicle.
How can this affect a business? The Court stated, “Employers employing unfit and unqualified drivers cannot insulate themselves from a negligent entrustment claim simply by stipulating that the employee driver was acting in the course and scope of employment.”
If you own a business, you need to make sure you have a procedure and are following it when entrusting any of your employees with a vehicle (or other action for that matter). If you follow a proper established procedure to ensure that your employees are properly trained and prepared for the tasks you give them, you will be better prepared to defend a similar claim if one arises against your business.
A Los Angeles Judge has ordered that coffee companies such as Starbucks must put Cancer Warnings on their coffee products that are sold within California. The ruling was based on potential carcinogens being used during the roasting process of the coffee beans. One of the chemicals, acrylamide, is used to make the beans more flavorful, but has been linked to potential cancer in mice.
2018 Interest Rates: In accordance with 12 O.S. 2013 Supp. §727.1 (I), the postjudgment interest rate to be charged on judgments for calendar year 2018 shall be 6.50 percent. Also, the prejudgment interest rate for calendar year 2018 shall be 0.92 percent (applicable to actions filed on or after January 1, 2010). These interest rates will be in effect from January 1, 2018, through December 31, 2018. - Oklahoma Supreme Court Network
A Oklahoma man was charged with thirteen counts of cruelty to animals. The man argued that the maltreatment of his dogs all happened at this same time and location so it should be just one count instead of thirteen. After reviewing the case, Oklahoma’s Highest Court disagreed with the man and held that he could be charged with all thirteen counts. The Court noted that the dogs were separately chained or in separate pins. The Court then looked at the statute regarding Cruelty to Animals and determined that the intent of the statute was to protect the maltreatment of any particular animal. The man is now facing all thirteen Counts in Grant County.
For more details click the case below:
State v. Gilchrist, 2017 OK CR 25
A gas station who sells alcohol to a noticeably intoxicated person may be liable for any harm the person causes to another even if they take the alcohol somewhere else to drink it. The Court also created a duty to exercise reasonable care to not sell liquor to a noticeably intoxicated person.
The opinion was issued after a man near Elk City who was intoxicated from drinking throughout an entire day stopped at a convenience store to buy more beer around 9:00 pm before heading to a party.
After leaving the party around 11:00 pm, the man crashed his vehicle into a three car vehicle killing one and injuring two others in it. After police arrived on the scene, the man was measured to have a blood alcohol content of .29g%. That is over three-and-a-half times the legal limit.
The Court held that the gas station had a duty to not sell the man extra beer knowing he was already intoxicated and can be held liable for the death and injuries of the car the man crashed into if a jury finds the gas station violated its duty.
For the full opinion, click the case below:
Boyle v. ASAP Energy, Inc., 2017 OK 82
Oklahoma has been granted an extension for the State IDs to comply with Federal Rules by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The Extension is until October 10, 2018.
This is good for Oklahomans because it allows resident’s driver’s licenses to continue to be recognized by the federal government as a form of ID. Before the extension, there were growing concerns that Oklahoma’s would have to have an ID other than their driver’s license to fly.
Mary Fallin stated, “This is great news for Oklahomans, and means there will be no restrictions on individuals using Oklahoma licenses to fly or access federal buildings through October 10 of next year … I applaud our lawmakers for working in a constructive, bipartisan fashion in approving legislation earlier this year that made Oklahoma compliant with the REAL ID Act.”
DPS Commissioner Michael C. Thompson said, “There have been many questions recently about Oklahoma’s status regarding REAL ID. DPS is actively working towards making Oklahoma REAL ID compliant and will use this time to gain compliance with the requirement. We strongly appreciate Governor Fallin’s leadership in signing REAL ID into law.”
From Oklahoma State Court Network:
Governor Mary Fallin received and accepted a letter from Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Joseph Watt stating his intention to retire at the end of this year.
Watt, justice for the 9th Supreme Court Judicial District, wrote that his retirement will take effect Dec. 31.
Watt, of Altus, began his judicial service in 1985, when he was appointed special district judge for Jackson County. He was elected associated district judge for Jackson County in 1986.
In 1991, then-Gov. David Walters named Watt as his general counsel. He was appointed by Walters to the Oklahoma Supreme Court on May 17, 1992, and is in his 26th year of service on the high court. He served two terms as chief justice, from 2003 until 2007.
“Having spent almost half of my entire life serving in the judicial branch of government, the past 25½ years on the Supreme Court have been the most rewarding of my entire life,” Watt said. “As the new year dawns, I look forward to beginning the next chapter in my life spending more quality time with my grandchildren, traveling with my wife, Cathy, and taking active retired status beginning Jan. 1, 2018.
Supreme Court justices serve on the court as long as they are able and must appear on the ballot and be retained by voters every six years, according to state statute.
“Justice Watt has served the state well while being on the bench for more than 30 years, including the past 25 years as a Supreme Court justice,” said Fallin. “He’s been a man of integrity, and has served with distinction. I appreciate his knowledge, dedication and fairness while on the high court. I wish him the best in his retirement and want to thank his wife and family, too, for their sacrifice and service to our state.”
Watt earned a bachelor’s degree in history/government from Texas Tech University and a doctor of jurisprudence from the University of Texas Law School. In 1973, he moved to Altus, where he worked in private law practice and served as Altus city prosecutor until 1985.
The Judicial Nominating Commission will accept applications for nominees to the court. The commission reviews the applications and submits three nominees to the governor.
At the time of appointment, applicants must be 30 or older, have been a qualified elector in the 9th Supreme Court Judicial District for at least one year immediately prior to the date of appointment, and have been a licensed practicing attorney or judge of a court of record, or both, in Oklahoma for five years preceding the appointment.
The 9th Judicial District consists of Harmon, Greer, Kiowa, Caddo, Canadian, Comanche, Jackson, Tillman and Cotton counties.
Oklahoma Supreme Court Rules that bilateral Hernias are two Separate Compensable Injuries Under Workers’ Compensation
The Oklahoma Supreme Court voted unanimously that a worker who had two hernias at the same time (formally called bilateral inguinal hernias) was entitled to twice the amount of workers compensation.
Under the Workers Compensation statutes, a worker who is diagnosed with a hernia on one side is entitled to temporary total disability for six weeks. However, the Supreme Court ruled that under the wording of the statute, the six weeks applies to each hernia.
In order to demonstrate the hernia was a compensable injury under Workers’ Compensation, the employee had to show that:
To read the Oklahoma Supreme’s Order in its entirety, click the case below: