432 P.3d 233 (Okla. 2018), 117103, Barrios v. Haskell County Public Facilities Authority

Docket Nº:117103, 117107, 117154
Citation:432 P.3d 233, 2018 OK 90
Opinion Judge:Wyrick, J.
Party Name:Jered BARRIOS, as the Personal Representative of the Estate of Randall Barrios, deceased, Plaintiff, v. HASKELL COUNTY PUBLIC FACILITIES AUTHORITY; Brian Hale, individually; Katrina Christy, individually and in her official capacity; Sheriff Tim Turner, in his official capacity; and Does I through V, Defendants. Kelly L. Foutch, administrator...
Attorney:Andrew M. Casey, FOSHEE & YAFFE, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Plaintiffs, Jered Barrios ex rel. Estate of Randall Barrios, deceased, and Kelly L. Foutch ex rel. Estate of Russell Ted Foutch, deceased. Jamison C. Whitson, COLLINS, ZORN & WAGNER, P.C., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Defendants Haskel...
Judge Panel:Combs, C.J., and Kauger, Winchester, Reif, and Wyrick, JJ., concur. Gurich, V.C.J., and Edmondson (by separate writing) and Darby, JJ., concur in result. Colbert, J., dissents. EDMONDSON, J., Concurring in result.
Case Date:December 04, 2018
Court:Supreme Court of Oklahoma
 
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Page 233

432 P.3d 233 (Okla. 2018)

2018 OK 90

Jered BARRIOS, as the Personal Representative of the Estate of Randall Barrios, deceased, Plaintiff,

v.

HASKELL COUNTY PUBLIC FACILITIES AUTHORITY; Brian Hale, individually; Katrina Christy, individually and in her official capacity; Sheriff Tim Turner, in his official capacity; and Does I through V, Defendants.

Kelly L. Foutch, administrator of the Estate of Russell Ted Foutch, deceased, Plaintiff,

v.

Turn Key Health, LLC, d/b/a Turn Key Medical and Turn Key; Creek County Public Facilities Authority; Jane Doe Nurse I; Jane Doe Nurse II; and John/Jane Does III-X, Defendants.

Nos. 117103, 117107, 117154

Supreme Court of Oklahoma

December 4, 2018

Page 234

CERTIFIED QUESTIONS FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA AND FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA

CERTIFIED QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Andrew M. Casey, FOSHEE & YAFFE, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Plaintiffs, Jered Barrios ex rel. Estate of Randall Barrios, deceased, and Kelly L. Foutch ex rel. Estate of Russell Ted Foutch, deceased.

Jamison C. Whitson, COLLINS, ZORN & WAGNER, P.C., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Defendants Haskell County Public Facilities Authority, Katrina Christy, Sheriff Tim Turner, and Creek County Public Facilities Authority.

Randall J. Wood and Jeffrey C. Hendrickson, PIERCE COUCH HENDRICKSON BAYSINGER & GREEN, L.L.P., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Defendant Brian Hale.

Anthony C. Winter, JOHNSON HANAN & VOSLER, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Defendant Turn Key Health, LLC d/b/a Turn Key Medical and Turn Key.

Devan A. Pederson, OKLAHOMA OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Amicus Curiae, State of Oklahoma.

OPINION

Wyrick, J.

[¶0] The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma and the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma certified several questions of state law to this Court pursuant to the Revised Uniform Certification of Questions of Law Act, 20 O.S.2011 § § 1601-1611.

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[ ¶1] Two federal courts have certified to us the following questions: 1. The Governmental Tort Claims Act renders the State immune from any tort suit arising out of the "[p]rovision, equipping, operation or maintenance of any prison, jail or correctional facility." Do Sections 7 and 9 of Article II of the Oklahoma Constitution nonetheless allow an inmate to bring a tort claim for denial of medical care?

2. If so, is the private cause of action to be recognized retrospectively?

[¶2] Answering these questions requires us to determine whether we should extend our holding in Bosh v. Cherokee County Governmental Building Authority, 2013 OK 9, 305 P.3d 994, to include tort claims brought by inmates alleging violations of their rights to due process and to be free from cruel or unusual punishments. Because the Legislature responded to our decision in Bosh by amending the Governmental Tort Claims Act ("GTCA"), 51 O.S. § § 151 et seq., to clarify that the State’s immunity from suit extended even to so-called "constitutional" torts,1 we answer the first question "no." Accordingly, we do not reach the second question.

I

[ ¶3] Russell Foutch and Randall Barrios died while incarcerated in county jails, Barrios by his own hand,2 Foutch from complications related to pneumonia.3 Their estates sued the respective jails, one sheriff, and various employees and healthcare contractors of those jails. Their claims included (1) federal civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the federal constitution, (2) negligence and wrongful death claims, (3) negligent conduct, training, hiring, and supervision claims, and (4) tort claims alleging violations of rights guaranteed by Sections 7 and 9 of Article II of the Oklahoma Constitution.4

[¶4] In Foutch’s case, the healthcare contractor filed a Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss Foutch’s negligence, state constitutional, and § 1983 claims, while the jail filed a partial motion to dismiss all of Foutch’s negligence and state constitutional claims. Both the healthcare contractor and the jail argued they were immune from suit under the Oklahoma GTCA and that Foutch

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had failed to raise a plausible claim for denial of medical care under Article II, Section 7 or 9 of the Oklahoma Constitution.5 The trial court granted the jail’s partial motion to dismiss and the healthcare contractor’s motion to dismiss Foutch’s state constitutional claims, but allowed Foutch’s § 1983 claim to proceed. Both dismissals were premised on the district court’s conclusion that this Court had never recognized a cause of action for denial of inmate medical care under Article II, Section 7 or 9 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Foutch subsequently filed a motion to reconsider and asked the district court to certify questions to this Court for guidance on whether such a cause of action exists. The trial court denied Foutch’s motion to reconsider, but granted Foutch’s motion to certify the questions.

[¶5] In Barrios’s case, the jail and its employees filed a Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss Barrios’s negligent training/hiring/supervision and state constitutional claims. The former sheriff also filed a partial motion to dismiss the same claims, as well as Barrios’s negligence and wrongful death claims. The trial court ordered the parties to show cause why the state immunity questions should not be certified to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Barrios wanted the questions certified; the defendants did not. The trial court certified the questions.

[ ¶6] Due to the commonality of the questions presented, we made the cases companion cases and now answer the certified questions in this single opinion.[6]

II

A

[¶7] We have long recognized that the Legislature has the final say in defining the

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scope of the State’s sovereign immunity from suit.7 Indeed, when the Court eliminated the State’s judicially-created common law immunity from tort suits in Vanderpool v. State, 1983 OK 82, 672 P.2d 1153, we were careful to note our lack of power to withdraw immunity granted by legislative act.8 A decision as to whether to allow tort suits is, after all, a decision as to whether the People’s tax dollars should be used to pay money damages to those who successfully sue the state; so this recognition is consonant with our longstanding recognition of the Legislature’s exclusive power to set the State’s fiscal policy.9

[ ¶8] The Legislature has oft exercised its power to define the scope of the State’s immunity from suit. After Vanderpool, the Legislature enacted the GTCA and unequivocally abrogated Vanderpool’s common law decision with a statute declaring that "[t]he State of Oklahoma does hereby adopt the doctrine of sovereign immunity" from tort suits, while simultaneously waiving that immunity for certain tort claims.10 Accordingly, in cases including tort claims against the State and state actors, the Court begins with the understanding that the State is statutorily immune from tort suit unless the Legislature has expressly waived that immunity. We thus look next to the text of the GTCA to determine whether its limited waivers of sovereign immunity from tort suit encompass the particular tort suit at issue.11

[¶9] Analyzing a prior version of the GTCA, this Court did just that in Bosh, holding that the GTCA did not bar a tort claim alleging that excessive force was used against a pre-trial detainee in violation of the detainee’s Article II, Section 30 right not to be unreasonably seized. We read the GTCA as stopping short of "immunizing the state completely from all liability for violations of the constitutional rights of its citizens."[12] The text of the GTCA certainly didn’t expressly include tort claims arising from alleged deprivations of constitutional rights— and we have always said that "[i]mmunity cannot be read into a legislative text that is silent, doubtful or ambiguous."13 Accordingly,

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we recognized a common law tort remedy for claims arising from alleged violations of Article II, Section 30 rights.14

[¶10] As it did after Vanderpool, the Legislature in 2014 responded to Bosh by amending the GTCA to specify that the State’s immunity from suit extended even to torts arising from alleged deprivations of constitutional rights.15 The Legislature first amended the definition of "tort" to include tort claims arising from alleged violations of constitutional duties: "Tort" means a legal wrong, independent of contract, involving violation of a duty imposed by general law, statute, the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma, or otherwise, resulting in a loss to any person, association...

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