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Category: Court Decisions

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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New Oklahoma Supreme Court Opinion Dramatically Expands Legal Liability of Convenience Stores Related to Assessing the Intoxication Level of Customers Prior to Sale of Alcohol

Nov 1, 2017 - Court Decisions by

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has recently issued an opinion that will dramatically expand the potential liability of convenience stores (and other retail establishments) that sell alcohol to the public.  In that case, the Court concluded that a convenience store can be held liable when a noticeably intoxicated customer buys alcohol at the store, and then consumes that alcohol off-the premises, and then drives a vehicle and causes injury to a third person.  See Boyle v. ASAP Energy, Inc., 2017 OK 82, 2017 WL 4782999.  The third person who is injured by the customer’s “off-the-premises” intoxication now has a claim against the convenience store. In Boyle, an individual consumed 14-16 beers at a golf tournament and a “sip of moonshine.”  He left the golf tournament at 2:00 p.m., and returned home at 3:20 p.m.  He then grilled chicken at home, and drank 4-5 beers, 3-4 shots of vodka and an additional sip of moonshine.  He went to the “Fast Lane” convenience store (the defendant in this case) at 5:17 p.m., and bought a 9 pack of low point beer and cigarettes.  He then returned home, and then left his house at approximately 9:00 p.m. to attend a party elsewhere.  He made it to the party, had another shot of vodka, and let around 11:00 p.m.  This was 5 hours after he purchased the beer at Fast Lane.  At that time, he ran a four-way stop at a high rate of speed and collided with another vehicle.  He killed one person, and […]

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