Articles Posted in Oklahoma Supreme Court

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R.V. Bebout died testate on March 30, 1980, as a resident of Tarrant County, Texas. His Last Will and Testament, dated March 8, 1977, was admitted in the Probate Court of Tarrant County, Texas. At the time of his death, Bebout owned mineral interests in Canadian County, Oklahoma. On September 30, 1981, an ancillary Petition for Probate of Foreign Will was filed in the District Court of Canadian County. Bebout's will provided that his estate was to be distributed in trust to his wife, if she survived him. In the event his wife predeceased him, which she did, his will provided that one-half of his estate was to be distributed to his daughter, Betty Ewell, and one-half to his granddaughter, Betsy Kuykendall. The will made no mention of Bebout's son, Russell Bebout, who had predeceased him, or Bebout's grandsons, John Bebout and James Bebout (Grandsons). The Final Order in the Estate of R.V. Bebout, filed in 1982, distributed his mineral interests to his daughter and granddaughter in equal shares pursuant to the terms of his will. In 2014, the grandsons filed this action in Canadian County, alleging that the mineral interest distribution was void to the extent it failed to distribute the mineral interests one-quarter each to his grandsons who were pretermitted heirs under the will. Citing the Oklahoma Supreme Court's decision in “Booth v. McKnight,” (70 P.3d 855 (2003)), the District Court agreed with the grandsons and found the Final Order issued in 1982 was void on its face for lack of proper notice to the grandsons. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that notice to the grandsons was constitutionally sufficient, and thus, the Final Order was not void for lack of proper notice. Grandsons' challenge to the Final Order more than thirty years later was deemed untimely. View "Bebout v. Ewell" on Justia Law

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The administrator of a decedent's estate appealed an interlocutory district court order compelling the administrator to file a federal estate tax return for the decedent's estate and elect portability of the Deceased Spousal Unused Exclusion Amount pursuant to 26 U.S.C.A. 2010. The surviving spouse sought the order, and benefits from the portability election. The administrator argued the district court erred on several grounds: lack of jurisdiction; issues with federal preemption; the surviving spouse's lack of standing; and that the order was contrary to an antenuptial agreement entered into between the surviving spouse and the decedent. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. View "In the matter of Estate of Vose" on Justia Law

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The issue in this cause is whether Plaintiff-appellant Rhonda Brown was estopped from asserting her status as the surviving spouse of the Decedent, Bobby Joe Brown, Jr. Plaintiff and Bobby Joe Brown, Jr. were married in 1995, and three children were born of the marriage. Rhonda testified that after a few years of marriage, she told Bobby she could no longer stay with him if he did not cease his extra-marital affairs. He did not comply with this condition, and Rhonda moved out of the marital home. They were never divorced through a court proceeding. She moved frequently and, at different times, lived in several Oklahoma cities, as well as in Kansas. After Bobby and Rhonda separated, he began living with Ami Alley in 2004. Two children were born to the couple. Ami testified she and Bobby held themselves out as husband and wife to everyone and established a home together in Perry, Oklahoma. Rhonda testified she was aware of the relationship between Ami and Bobby and that he was living with her and their two children. Rhonda testified that Bobby referred to Ami as his girlfriend. In 2013, Bobby died in a motorcycle accident. Ami was named Personal Representative of his estate upon the court's finding she was Bobby's surviving spouse in a common law marriage. Rhonda was not sent notice of the proceeding, and Ami did not advise the court of Rhonda's relationship with Bobby. Ami explained that the court asked if there was anybody to object, and no one appeared to do so. She said the court did not ask about Rhonda, and she did not raise the issue. She also testified Rhonda knew about the proceeding but would not give Ami her address. In the judgment denying Rhonda's Petition and Motion to Revoke Letters of Administration, the trial court found Bobby and Ami's relationship met the requirements of a common law marriage; and that Rhonda re-married in a ceremonial, traditional marriage in 2012. The court based its decision to deny Rhonda's motion to revoke the letters of administration on the issue of estoppel, rather than the legal classification of her marriage to Bobby. Finding that the trial court properly held that Rhonda was estopped from asserting she should have been appointed Personal Representative of Bobby's estate (instead of Ami), the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Brown v. Alley" on Justia Law

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Appellant Sandra O'Donoghue, as personal representative of the estate of David O'Donoghue, brought suit seeking an adjudication that the estates of David L. Dooley's grandchildren, Erin and David O'Donoghue, were the beneficiaries of bequests of trust principal under the David L. Dooley and Carolyn Ann Collins Dooley Trusts. The district court granted summary judgment to Carolyn Dooley, Trustee, and determined that the per stirpes bequests of trust principal to Erin and David, lapsed upon their death leaving no lineal descendants. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed finding Appellant, as the spouse and beneficiary of the estate of David O'Donoghue, was entitled to take his share of the trust principal upon the death of Settlor's spouse. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the Trust principal remainder interest was intended for lineal descendants of the two grandchildren, and not to the grandchild's widow. View "O'Donoghue v. Dooley" on Justia Law

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Drew Bowers (Ward) sustained a traumatic brain injury in 1981. As a result of the injury, he required 24-hour care. His mother, Patricia Bowers Edwards (Guardian) was appointed guardian of her son's person and property in 2004. As guardian, she was responsible for hiring approximately ten caretakers for Drew in his private residence. Two of the ten caretakers contracted to provide services for Drew were domestic workers, Deborah Sizemore and Brad Garrett. In 2013, Sizemore filed a "charge of discrimination" pursuant to the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act, with the Attorney General's Office of Civil Rights Enforcement, claiming that her hours were dramatically reduced when she told the guardian she suffered from narcolepsy. Sizemore also claimed that she was sexually harassed at work by a male co-worker. She identified co-worker Garrett as a supporting witness in her complaint. The Guardian terminated the employment of both Sizemore and Garrett when she received the complaint from the Attorney General. The Guardian admitted she discharged Sizemore and Garrett from employment because the complaint was "the straw that broke the camel's back." Guardian moved for summary judgment arguing that Drew was the actual employer and that under section 1301 of the Act, a natural person did not meet the definition of "employer." Guardian further argued that under section 1302(B) of the Act, the prohibition of discriminatory practices did not apply to " . . .employment in the domestic service of the employer." The trial court denied Guardian's motion for summary judgment and Guardian brought this original action asserting immunity under the Act. Finding that indeed, Guardian was immune from suit under the Act, and that the trial court erred by not dismissing this case, the Supreme Court remanded the matter for the trial court to vacate its judgment and dismiss the case. View "Edwards v. Andrews" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Pat Blair brought an action alleging that a conveyance of real property from her grandmother to her sister, the defendant-appellee Gayle Richardson (grantee), was void because the grandmother (grantor) lacked legal competency and because the deed was executed under undue influence. The trial court ruled in favor of Richardson on both theories of recovery. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed, concluding that the grantor was rendered legally incompetent by operation of 43A O.S. 1961 section 64. Richardson appealed. Finding no reversible error in the appellate court's judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Blair v. Richardson" on Justia Law

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Carol Jean Carlson (Decedent) learned she was terminally ill in 2011, and retained an attorney to assist her in planning the disposition of her estate. Decedent executed three transfer-on-death deeds (TODDs) pursuant to the Nontestamentary Transfer of Property Act for real property she owned, as well as a Last Will and Testament. One of the pieces of real property transferred via TODD went to Debra Glover. The first of the other two TODDs named Appellee Clifford Cornish (Cornish) as grantee and the second named Eldin Lewis (collectively referred to as Grantees). Decedent died on August 29, 2011, five days after executing the TODDs and her Last Will and Testament. Prior to Decedent's estate planning and the execution of the TODD, Decedent executed a promissory note in the amount of $140,224.35 in 2006 in favor of The Margee and Robert W. Minter Living Trust. This note was secured by a mortgage, filed December 21, 2006, which encumbered the property conveyed to Lewis via the TODD. Lewis timely accepted the TODD. In 2011, Lewis filed a proof of claim with the Personal Representative for the remaining debt in the amount of $123,530.09. The Personal Representative rejected Lewis' claim on December 16, 2011. At issue in this cause is whether Carlson's estate was liable for the underlying debt on the mortgaged property transferred by TODD, when the grantor's will contained express instructions for the payment of all debts secured by mortgages. The Supreme Court determined that it was. View "In the Matter of the Estate of Carlson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a wrongful death action against Defendant Cox Retirement Properties, alleging Richard Douglas died as a result of the facility's negligent care and treatment. Defendant moved to dismiss the case for Plaintiff's failure to comply with 12 O.S. Supp. 2009 19. Section 19 was enacted in 2009 as part of H.B. 1603, known as the Comprehensive Lawsuit Reform Act of 2009. Plaintiff responded to the motion to dismiss, arguing the CLRA of 2009 was unconstitutional logrolling in violation of the single-subject rule of Article 5, section 57 of the Oklahoma Constitution. The trial court granted the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and certified the dismissal order for immediate review. The Supreme Court granted Plaintiff's Petition for Certiorari and held that hold that H.B. 1603 violated the single-subject rule of Article 5, section 57 of the Oklahoma Constitution and was unconstitutional and void in its entirety. View "Douglas v. Cox Retirement Properties, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Tax Commission appealed a ruling by the District Court of Grady County which found a decedent's outstanding 1978-1985 income tax liability was barred from collection through Decedent's probate case. The trial court's ruling was based on the ten-year limitation imposed by 68 O.S. 2001 section 223(A). The Court of Civil Appeals reversed, concluding the statute operated as a statute of limitations and did not violate the Oklahoma Constitution. The Court also found that the Oklahoma probate code required satisfaction of the tax debt before distribution of the estate assets. The decedent's estate appealed that ruling. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the appellate court correctly held that 68 O.S. 2001 section 223(A) was a statute of limitations and did not extinguish an underlying debt to the state in violation of the Oklahoma Constitution. However, the Court concluded that neither 58 O.S. 2001 section 591 nor 58 O.S. 2001 section 635 of the probate code require payment of a debt otherwise barred by the statute of limitations. View "In the matter of the Estate of Bell-Levine" on Justia Law

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In 2005, Applicant Michael Benson made an application to Leader Life for a life insurance policy, naming his wife Shannon, as Beneficiary. The application asked if the applicant had ever been treated for liver disease, had any medical or surgical treatment in the last five years or any departure from good health and whether or not the applicant had ever had an alcohol or drug problem. Applicant answered yes to the departure from good health question and told the insurance company that he had a blood clot in his leg 2003. Applicant answered no to the Liver disease question and no to the alcohol question. Leaders Life accepted his answers and issued the underlying policy in this action. In 2006, Applicant was on foot, pushing a stalled car out of the street when he was struck by another vehicle which eventually resulted in his death. His wife filed for benefits under the policy. Leaders investigated the claim. They received the hospital records pertaining to his death, which also noted his blood alcohol at his time of death, although the owner of the car testified that he smelled no alcohol on the applicant. After reviewing the records, Leaders Life's underwriter concluded that Applicant falsified his answers on his application and rescinded the policy due to Applicant's alcoholism. Certiorari was granted to review the Court of Civil Appeals opinion that reversed and remanding the case following a jury verdict in Applicant's favor. Leaders Life appealed the trial court and won on appellate review. After its review, the Supreme Court found that at trial, Leaders Life made clear that they believed there were material misrepresentations made by Applicant, and that he attempted to deceive them. However, the trier of fact, the jury did not find that such a misrepresentation had been made. They decided in favor of the beneficiary, and awarded her actual and in punitive damages. The Supreme Court declined substitute its judgment for that of the jury under the case law presented by this suit. Accordingly, the Court reinstated the trial court's judgment and vacated the appellate court's opinion. View "Benson v. Leaders Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law