McIntosh v. Watkins, 022619 OKSC, 117413

Docket Nº:117413
Opinion Judge:COMBS, J.
Party Name:LEE MCINTOSH, Plaintiff/Appellant, v. JAKE WATKINS, Defendant/Appellee.
Attorney:Anthony F. Gorospe, Gorospe Law Group, PLLC, Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Plaintiff/Appellant. Brad L. Roberson and Lauren N. Watson, Pignato, Cooper, Kolker & Roberson, P.C., Oklahoma City, OK, for Defendant/Appellee
Judge Panel:Gurich, C.J., Edmondson, Colbert, Reif, Combs, JJ., concur. Wyrick, V.C.J., dissents (writing separately), Kauger, Winchester, Darby, JJ., dissent. Wyrick, V.C.J., with whom Winchester, J., joins, dissenting:
Case Date:February 26, 2019
Court:Supreme Court of Oklahoma
 
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2019 OK 6

LEE MCINTOSH, Plaintiff/Appellant,

v.

JAKE WATKINS, Defendant/Appellee.

No. 117413

Supreme Court of Oklahoma

February 26, 2019

ON APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF POTTAWATOMIE COUNTY, STATE OF OKLAHOMA; HONORABLE JOHN G. CANAVAN, DISTRICT JUDGE

Anthony F. Gorospe, Gorospe Law Group, PLLC, Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Plaintiff/Appellant.

Brad L. Roberson and Lauren N. Watson, Pignato, Cooper, Kolker & Roberson, P.C., Oklahoma City, OK, for Defendant/Appellee

COMBS, J.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶0 Appellant, Lee McIntosh, was involved in a hit-and-run accident caused by the appellee, Jake Watkins. Appellant sought treble damages against the appellee based upon the damage to his vehicle. The district court held 47 O.S. 2011, § 10-103 did not allow treble damages because the appellant also sustained injuries and granted summary judgment in favor of the appellee. We hold the treble damage provision in 47 O.S. 2011, §10-103 applies even if a victim sustains an injury.

¶1 On October 29, 2017, the defendant/appellee, Jake Watkins, was driving under the influence of alcohol and rear-ended a vehicle owned and operated by the plaintiff/appellant, Lee McIntosh. Mr. McIntosh's vehicle was damaged and he and the former co-plaintiff, Anthony McIntosh, were injured. 1 Both vehicles pulled over to the shoulder of the road and the parties exited their vehicles to discuss the accident and to inspect the damage. At some point Mr. McIntosh stated he needed to call the police to report the accident. When Mr. Watkins heard this he returned to his vehicle and fled the scene without providing Mr. McIntosh the information required under 47 O.S. 2011, §10-104 (name, address, vehicle registration number and, upon request, show a driver license and security verification form). Mr. Watkins was later arrested and charged with two counts: 1) driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol; and 2) leaving the scene of an accident involving damage in violation of 47 O.S. 2011, § 10-103. He pled no contest to the two counts and received a deferred judgment and sentence on March 9, 2018, in Case No. CM-2017-902, Pottawatomie County, State of Oklahoma.

¶2 On June 15, 2018, Mr. McIntosh signed a settlement agreement which settled all of his bodily injury claims for the sum of $25, 000.00. Mr. McIntosh was also paid $17, 545.66 to fully repair his vehicle and an additional $7, 000.00 for the diminution of value claim. The only remaining issue left to be decided by the trial court was whether Mr. McIntosh was entitled to receive treble damages for the damage sustained to his vehicle. Mr. Watkins filed a motion for partial summary judgment which was later converted to a motion for summary judgment considering there was only one remaining issue to be decided. On August 16, 2018, a hearing was held and the trial court ruled Mr. McIntosh was not entitled to treble damages pursuant to 47 O.S. 2011, § 10-103, due to the fact he had incurred not only property damage to his vehicle but he also sustained a nonfatal injury. Mr. McIntosh appeals the trial court's ruling on this final issue.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶3 The standard for appellate review of a summary judgment is de novo and an appellate court makes an independent and nondeferential review. Nelson v. Enid Med. Assocs., Inc., 2016 OK 69, ¶7, 376 P.3d 212; Carmichael v. Beller, 1996 OK 48, ¶2, 914 P.2d 1051. That review requires examination of the pleadings and evidentiary materials submitted by the parties to determine whether there exists a genuine issue of material fact. Carmichael, 1996 OK 48, ¶2. When genuine issues of material fact exist, summary judgment should be denied and the question becomes one for determination by the trier of fact. Brown v. Okla. State Bank & Trust Co., 1993 OK 117, ¶7, 860 P.2d 230.

¶4 Legal questions involving the district court's statutory interpretation of law are also subject to de novo review. Fulsom v. Fulsom, 2003 OK 96, ¶2, 81 P.3d 652. The primary goal of statutory construction is to ascertain and to apply the intent of the Legislature that enacted the statute. Samman v. Multiple Injury Trust Fund, 2001 OK 71, ¶13, 33 P.3d 302. If the legislative intent cannot be ascertained from the language of a statute, as in the cases of ambiguity, we must apply rules of statutory construction. YDF, Inc. v. Schlumar, Inc., 2006 OK 32, ¶6, 136 P.3d 656. The test for ambiguity in a statute is whether the statutory language is susceptible to more than one reasonable interpretation. In Matter of J. L. M., 2005 OK 15, ¶5, 109 P.3d 336. Where a statute is ambiguous or its meaning uncertain it is to be given a reasonable construction, one that will avoid absurd consequences if this can be done without violating legislative intent. Wylie v. Chesser, 2007 OK 81, ¶19, 173 P.3d 64. In ascertaining legislative intent, the language of an entire act should be construed with a reasonable and sensible construction. Udall v. Udall, 1980 OK 99, ¶11, 613 P.3d 742. Statutory construction that would lead to an absurdity must be avoided and a rational construction should be given to a statute if the language fairly permits. Ledbetter v. Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Comm'n., 1988 OK 117, ¶7, 764 P.2d 172. The legislative intent will be ascertained from the whole act in light of its general purpose and objective considering relevant provisions together to give full force and effect to each. Keating v. Edmondson, 2001 OK 110, ¶8, 37 P.3d 882. Any doubt as to the purpose or intent of a statute may be resolved by resort to other statutes relating to the same subject matter. Naylor v. Petuskey, 1992 OK 88, ¶4, 834 P.2d 439. This Court will not limit consideration to one word or phrase but will consider the various provisions of the relevant legislative scheme to ascertain and give effect to the legislative intent and the public policy underlying the intent. YDF, Inc., 2006 OK 32, ¶6. Legislative purpose and intent may also be ascertained from the language in the title to a legislative enactment. Naylor, 1992 OK 88 ¶4; Independent School District No. 89 of Oklahoma County v. Oklahoma City Federation of Teachers, Local 2309 of American Federation of Teachers, 1980 OK 89, ¶17, 612 P.2d 719.

III. ANALYSIS

¶5 The parties do not dispute that Mr. Watkins collided into and damaged Mr. McIntosh's vehicle while it was operated by Mr. McIntosh. The parties do not dispute Mr. Watkins left the scene of the accident prior to fulfilling the requirements of 47 O.S. 2011, § 10-104. In Mr. McIntosh's response to the motion for summary judgment he denied Mr. Watkin's statement of undisputed material facts that Mr. McIntosh had sustained and was treated for bodily injury. However, he limited this denial only as to the relevancy of that fact to the issue presented. Both his petition and amended petition clearly stated the automobile accident caused him bodily injury. There remain no genuine issues of material fact in dispute that would prohibit summary judgment. The issue before this Court is purely a question of law concerning what damages a plaintiff is entitled to receive when he or she is involved in a hit-and-run accident involving both property damage and bodily injury.

¶6 Mr. McIntosh seeks treble property damage. Mr. Watkins was charged and pled no contest to violating 47 O.S. 2011, § 10-103 in the criminal matter regarding the subject accident. Under this statute, a person who leaves the scene of an accident where an attended vehicle is damaged and without providing requisite information shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and can also be liable in a civil action for treble damages caused by the accident. Title 47 O.S. 2011, § 10-103 provides: The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to a vehicle which is driven or attended by any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such accident or as close thereto as possible but shall forthwith return to and in every event shall remain at the scene of such accident until he has fulfilled the requirements of Section 47-10-104 of this title. Every such stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary. Any person failing to stop or comply with said requirements under such circumstances shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine not to exceed Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one (1) year, or by both such fine and imprisonment. In addition to the criminal penalties imposed by this section, any person violating the provisions of this section shall be subject to liability for damages in an amount equal to three times the value of the damage caused by the accident. Said damages shall be recoverable in a civil action. Nothing in this section...

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