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Monthly Archives: January 2018

The Oklahoma Supreme Court Interprets the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act

Jan 23, 2018 - Court Decisions by

The Oklahoma Supreme Court recently decided a case involving the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act.  In Beach v. Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, 2017 OK 40, 398 P.3d 1, the plaintiff alleged that her religious rights were violated because she was required to submit a high-resolution facial photograph to renew her driver’s license.  The plaintiff claimed that her “sincerely held” religious beliefs forbade her from participating in a global-numbering identification system, using the “number of man,” and that her beliefs “eternally concern her for participation in any such system.”  In particular, the plaintiff complained that the State used measurements off of her facial points to determine a “number that is specific to her” for use with facial recognition software.  She believed the resulting number was the “number of a man” referred to in Revelation 13:16-18. In 2000, Oklahoma enacted the “Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act” (ORFA).  51 O.S. §253.  The OFRA mandates that no governmental entity shall substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.  In this case, the Court held that the plaintiff did not produce any evidence that the State had substantially burdened the free exercise of her articulated religious beliefs, nor any evidence to support her “fear” that the State would be distributing her personal data on an international scale in violation of her religious beliefs.  Because the plaintiff failed to state a prima facie case for violation of the ORFA, the burden did not shift to the […]

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Oklahoma Supreme Court Addresses an Insurer’s Ability to Question Reasonableness of Medical Bills in First-Party UM Claim

Jan 23, 2018 - Court Decisions by

In the recent case of Falcone v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., 2017 OK 11, 391 P.3d 105, the Court addressed a bad faith cause of action against an insurance company in the uninsured motorist context.  In that case, the insurer withheld payment of UM benefits, claiming that the medical bills the insured received from a health care provider were excessive in amount.  The plaintiff had been taken by ambulance to an emergency room, and then transferred to a trauma center, incurring billed fees in the amount of $47,203.00, which later increased to $67,098.23.  The insurer conducted its own review of the billing, and concluded it was excessive, and suggested that the treatment the plaintiff received was far in excess of what was necessary.  The plaintiff eventually sued the insurer in order to get his medical bills paid, and requested additional damages for the alleged “bad faith” conduct on the part of the insurer.  The trial court granted summary judgment, finding it was reasonable as a matter of law for the insurer to question the reasonableness of the medical charges. The Supreme Court reversed, and remanded, finding that defendant offered less than the maximum amount of its evaluations, took the position that certain treatment was unwarranted, and forced plaintiff to file a lawsuit  — after which the insurer sent a check for full policy limits.  The Court noted that the amount of her medical bill was beyond her control, as was the decision of the ER doctor to send her to […]

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