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What is, isn’t Allowed Under Oklahoma’s New Texting While Driving Law?

What is, isn’t Allowed Under Oklahoma’s New Texting While Driving Law?

Texting while driving is against the law throughout the state of Oklahoma, effective Nov. 1, 2015. The law prohibits drivers on any Oklahoma street or highway from typing a text, email or “electronic message.” The law makes texting while driving a “primary offense.” That empowers officers to pull over drivers whom they suspect are texting. If it were merely a secondary offense, the officer would have to have another reason, such as speeding or reckless driving, to make the stop. Violation is punishable by a $100 fine. Here is the first paragraph of Oklahoma’s texting while driving law: “It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle on any street or highway within this state while using a hand-held electronic communication device to manually compose, send or read an elctronic text message while the motor vehicle is in motion.” Many questions will emerge as Oklahoma drivers become aware of (and receive citations under) the new law, as officers begin to enforce it, and as state and municipal judges are called upon to interpret it. Here are some answers. Just text messages? What about an email? What about a Facebook post? The law prohibits “text messages,” which the law defines as “a text-based message, instant message, electronic message, photo, video or electronic mail.” Email (electronic mail) is clearly prohibited. The other language seems to prohibit posting to social networks or doing any other manual electronic communication. The tragic fatality (see below) that led to adoption of the law occurred when a driver was posting to his Facebook page. What about receiving a text, email or post? It... read more

What Should You Do After a Car Accident?

Hopefully, you will never be involved in a car crash. Unfortunately, the statistics don’t paint an optimistic picture. According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSO), there were an astonishing 68,327 crashes in 2014 alone. That’s roughly 187 accidents every day, or about eight accidents per hour. If the worst does happen, you should know about your responsibilities are as a driver – because if you fail to take certain steps, you could find yourself at the center of a criminal investigation. In this article, our car accident lawyers will explain some of the state laws Oklahoma injury victims and drivers should be aware of. What Are the Driver’s Responsibilities After Someone is Injured or Killed? Oklahoma’s motor vehicle laws are consolidated under Title 47. Chapter 10 is devoted to accidents and reports relating to accidents, and contains about 20 different statutes addressing what drivers are supposed to do after a crash or collision occurs. These statutes include: O.S. § 10-102 (Accidents Resulting in Nonfatal Injury – Failure to Stop) O.S. § 10-102.1 (Accidents Resulting in Death – Failure to Stop) O.S. § 10-104 (Duty to Give Information and Render Aid – Drug and Alcohol Testing) O.S. § 10-107 (Immediate Notice of Accident) Obviously, safety is always the top priority after any accident occurs, and anyone’s first thought would be to call 9-1-1. However, this isn’t merely common sense – it’s actually mandated by law. O.S. § 10-102 and O.S. § 10-102.1, which respectively deal with injury accidents and fatal accidents, both require drivers to immediately stop their vehicles at the scene of the accident (or as close as... read more

Organization Calls for More Staff, More Inspections of Oklahoma Nursing Homes during Off Hours

The Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature is calling upon state lawmakers to require more staff on duty during evening and night shifts at Oklahoma nursing homes. The senior advocacy group is also asking the 2016 state Legislature to order the state Health Department to conduct more of its unannounced nursing home inspections during “off hours” — evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays. The Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature (OSHL) is an advocacy organization for our state’s senior adults. OSHL senators and representatives are elected by our state’s seniors to represent each of the 11 districts of the Oklahoma Area Agencies on Aging. More than 500,000 Oklahomans are 65 years old or older, constituting 13% of the state’s population. The OHSL met in Oklahoma City last Tuesday and Wednesday. It meets in September of odd-numbered years to develop proposed bills for the next session of the Oklahoma Legislature. Last week’s OHSL voted to send a proposed bill to the Oklahoma Legislature which would require more staff on duty during evening and night shifts. That’s a reasonable proposal. Nursing home residents live in their facilities 24/7, which means evenings and night times make up two-thirds of their lives. Many senior adults have difficulty sleeping or have health problems that require around-the-clock attention. Another OSHL proposed bill would require the state Health Department to conduct at least 25% of its nursing home inspections in the evenings, night time, weekends and holidays. That’s a sensible proposal which the state Legislature should adopt. An inspection conducted during normal business hours is likely to find a nursing home at its best. More staff is on duty. The best... read more

Three MORE Ways Some Employers Rip Off Their Tipped Employees

Blog Series on Tipped Employees: Part 4 This is the final installment of a four-part blog series on tipped employees, the minimum wage, and how some tipped employees are being ripped off by their employers. In Part 1 and Part 2, I explained how the minimum wage law applies to tipped employees. I also explained what a tip credit is and what the laws say about how an employer can properly take the credit. • In Part 3, I explained four ways that some employers rip off their tipped employees: by failing to pay minimum wage, taking the tip credit without proper records, taking the tip credit without notifying employees, and failing to pay overtime. Here are three more ways some employees illegally rip off their tipped employees. 1. Treating a non-tipped employee as a tipped employee A tipped employee is anyone who regularly receives more than $30 a month in tips. An employer who is skirting the law might try to treat non-tipped employees as tipped employees. After all, an Oklahoma employer must pay a tipped employee a base pay of $3.625/hour, which is just half the minimum wage. Of course, that employer is also required to make sure the employee ends up receiving the full minimum wage, but we are talking here about employers who are dodging the law. A devious employer could treat a non-tipped employee as a tipped employee and then fraudulently take the tip credit on the other half of that employee’s wages, even if the employee didn’t earn any tips at all. If the employer operates a tip pool, he might try to... read more

How Often Are Car Accidents Caused by Drunk Driving?

About one year ago, in October 2014, we published an article about the frequency of drunk driving accidents in Oklahoma. At that point in time, the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSO) reported that traffic fatalities involving intoxicated driving were down by 28% in 2013 from 2012. Has the trend continued, or is drunk driving on the rise again? OHSO Reports on 2014 Car Accident Statistics Every year, OHSO publishes a detailed series on statewide and city-specific crash data and statistics. This series is broken down by type of vehicle involved, type of human error involved, time of year, and other variables. In 2013, 189 people lost their lives in fatal Oklahoma accidents attributed to drunk driving. While that’s 189 people too many, it still represents a dramatic reduction from the 261 alcohol-related deaths reported by OHSO in 2012. Though work remains to be done, this reduction indicates that Oklahoma was on the right path. But has the trend continued? In 2014, OHSO documented a total of 68,327 automotive accidents statewide – about 187 accidents every day, or close to eight every hour. Among these accidents: 589 were fatal (resulting in 669 total fatalities). 2,431 were classified as “incapacitating,” or resulting in serious injury. 8,404 were classified as “non-incapacitating,” or resulting in mild to moderate injury. Oklahoma County had the highest number of accidents (18,868), followed by Tulsa County with 12,733 accidents. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Harmon County reported the lowest number of accidents, with just 13 total. (Of course, this disparity is probably attributable to the vast difference in county populations: 755,245 in Oklahoma County, as... read more

Four Ways Some Employers Rip Off Their Tipped Employees

Blog Series on Tipped Employees: Part 3 There are many ways an employer can take unfair advantage of a tipped employee. These practices are against the law. Workers who earn some of their regular income in tips should know their legal rights and protection, so they can make sure that they are not being ripped off. In two previous posts, I explained the state and federal laws that govern how restaurant waiters and waitresses and other tipped employees are supposed to be compensated. Now I’m going to shine the light on some ways that some employers are ripping off their tipped employees. During 2010 to 2012, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division conducted almost 9,000 investigations in the restaurant industry. More than 8 out of 10 of those investigations (84%) turned up wage and hour violations. That’s indicative of industry-wide abuse. Before you continue reading, if you haven’t already, you may want to go back and get familiar with the law and terminology I explained in those earlier posts: “FAQs About Tipped Employees and the Minimum Wage” (Who is considered a tipped employee? What is the minimum wage for a tipped employee? Are any employers/employees exempt?) “FAQs About Tipped Employees and the Tip Credit” (How is the tip credit calculated? How does the employer know how much in tips you earned? Are there limits on how an employer applies the tip credit? Is the employer required to explain the tip credit to employees?) Here are some ways some employers are ripping off their tipped workers. Scam No. 1. Failure to pay the minimum wage. The bottom line... read more

New Oklahoma Car Seat Law Seeks to Reduce Child Deaths, Injuries in Car Crashes

In less than seven weeks, a new child car seat law goes into effect in Oklahoma. I encourage parents and other drivers to begin following the new requirements now, which were adopted to save the lives of infants and children who are involved in a car crash on Oklahoma roads. One of the big differences in the new law, which goes into effect Nov. 1, is that babies under age 2 will be required to be in a rear-facing car seat. There was no requirement for rear-facing car seats in the previous law. Another big difference is that under the old law, children 6 and above were allowed to use seat belts. Under the new law, the age for seat belt use is increased to 8 and above, except for 6- and 7-year-olds who are 4-foot 9-inches or taller. You can read the law for yourself here: Title 47: Motor Vehicles, Section 11-1112. The law requires that children: under 2 years old must be in a rear-facing car seat, 2-3 years old must be in a car seat, but it does not have to be rear-facing, 4-7 years old and less than 4’9” must be in a car seat or booster seat, 8 years old and older or taller than 4’9” must use a seat belt. The driver is responsible to make sure child passengers are safely secured. Violation can result in a fine of $50 plus court costs, and the violation also can be admitted as evidence in a civil lawsuit. The new law was authored by state Rep. Scott Inman, Del City, and was signed by Gov.... read more
What Actions Are Considered Reckless Driving?

What Actions Are Considered Reckless Driving?

The CDC reports that reckless driving is one of the top 10 causes of car accidents among teenagers.  However, it isn’t only teenaged drivers who have to be concerned.  Reckless driving accounts for roughly one third of all automotive accident fatalities in the United States, and unfortunately, Oklahoma is no exception. Breaking the Speed Limit in Oklahoma 47 O.S. § 11-901 provides two definitions of reckless driving: Operating a motor vehicle “in a careless or wanton manner without regard for the safety of persons or property.” Violating the provisions of 47 O.S. § 11-801. We’ll discuss the first definition in the next section of this article; but for now, let’s take a closer look at the regulations set forth by 47 O.S. § 11-801.  (After all, you can’t know whether its provisions were violated until you know what those provisions are.) 47 O.S. § 11-801(A) states that “Any person driving a vehicle on a highway shall drive… at a careful and prudent speed not greater than nor less than is reasonable and proper, having due regard to the traffic, surface and width of the highway and any other conditions then existing.”  Stated more simply, speeding is not allowed, and drivers should take road, weather, and traffic conditions into account. As provided by Section B of the statute, Oklahoma speed limits are: 75 MPH on turnpikes and rural stretches of interstate highways, such as I-35, I-40, and I-44. 70 MPH on four-lane divided highways (including interstates), and “super two-lane highways” (i.e. highways with passing lanes and paved shoulders). School buses are restricted to speeds of 55 MPH on two-lane highways,... read more
When Are Truck Drivers Required to Take Breaks?

When Are Truck Drivers Required to Take Breaks?

Coffee is America’s favorite breakfast beverage for a reason: you can’t function properly when you’re tired.  You start to forget important information.  Your physical reaction time is slowed down dramatically.  You become indecisive, and struggle to make even the simplest of choices.  Put simply, fatigue is a recipe for disaster – particularly when the fatigued person is controlling a powerful machine like a speeding semi-trailer truck.  Unfortunately, even though truckers are supposed to comply with federal shift limits called the hours of service regulations, exhausted drivers cause deadly truck accidents every day. How Often Does Driver Fatigue Cause Truck Crashes? The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, is the branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) responsible for monitoring and improving road safety among bus and truck companies.  Together with another branch of the DOT, called the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the FMCSA conducted a large truck crash causation study series sampling 120,000 accidents which occurred from April 2001 to December 2003.  According to a July 2007 brief on the study, all crashes included in the sample “involved at least one large truck and resulted in a fatality or injury.” The study ranked the leading factors in large truck crashes throughout the United States, as described below: Defective brake systems – 41,000 trucks (29%) Speeding for road/weather conditions – 32,000 trucks (23%) Lack of familiarity with the road – 31,000 trucks (22%) Defective or poorly maintained roads – 29,000 trucks (20%) Over-the-counter drug use – 25,000 trucks (17%) Insufficient surveillance – 20,000 trucks (14%) Driver fatigue – 18,000 trucks (13%) Pressure from carrier – 16,000... read more

FAQs About Tipped Employees and the (Vexingly Complicated) Tip Credit

Blog Series on Tipped Employees: Part 2 One of the most complicated aspects of federal and state minimum wage laws for tipped employees in Oklahoma is the “tip credit.” A “tipped employee” under the wage and hour laws is any worker who receives tips as part of one’s regular income — restaurant waiters and waitresses, bartenders and bar servers, etc. Many tipped employees do not understand the laws, which are designed to make sure they receive the federally mandated minimum wage and that they are allowed to keep the tips they earn. One big factor that makes the rules hard to understand is the tip credit, which employers can use to reduce the amount of wages they would otherwise have to pay. The tip credit is allowed under the law, but some unscrupulous employers use the tip credit to take advantage of uninformed workers. In my previous blog post, I answered “Some FAQs About Tipped Employees and the Minimum Wage,” including: Who is considered a tipped employee under the law? What is the minimum wage for a tipped employee? Are any employers/employees exempt from the minimum wage law? Now let’s zoom in on the tip credit. After I have explained the basics, in my next post I will discuss: “Ways Some Employers Are Ripping Off Their Tipped Employees.” How the Tip Credit Works The tip credit is based on the idea that tips are a big part of a tipped employee’s wages, but that the employer is still obligated to make sure employees earn the minimum wage, which is $7.25/hour under federal and state law. To make that happen,... read more

Some FAQs About Tipped Employees and the Minimum Wage

Blog Series on Tipped Employees: Part 1 If you are a “tipped employee” in Oklahoma, is your employer treating you fairly under federal and state minimum wage laws, or are you being ripped off? If you earn some of your wages in the form of tips as a restaurant waiter or waitress, bartender, bar server, bellhop, nail salon technician, etc., laws at the federal and state level protect your right to receive a minimum wage and to keep the tips you earn. Many tipped employees don’t know their rights and protections. Some employers don’t seem to know the laws, either — or they just choose to ignore them. Many tipped employees are people whom unethical employers might attempt to take advantage of, including teenagers, young adults, women and minorities. The law’s the law. People who work hard to serve the public deserve to be paid their fair wage. According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 2.4 million restaurant waiters and waitresses in the nation. Their average wage is $10.40/hour, which is $21,640/year for a 40-hour work week. However, that average is skewed slightly by the wages of waiters and waitresses who work at expensive restaurants, where generous tips are the norm. The median wage — the exact middle value of the range — is $9.01/hour ($18,730 annually), which means half of the nation’s waiters and waitresses earn less than that. Here are some answers to a few Frequently Asked Questions about tipped employees. In my next blog post, I will discuss some Frequently Asked Questions about Tip Credits. In the blog post after that,... read more

What is the Leading Cause of Motorcycle Accidents in Oklahoma?

Motorcycles are a beloved American icon, representing the rebellious spirit of the open road. Unfortunately, the same qualities which motorcycles are prized for – the speed and freedom they offer riders – also contribute to serious injuries and wrongful deaths when bikers get into accidents with other vehicles. In this article, our motorcycle accident lawyers will go over some Oklahoma crash statistics, common biker injuries, and the leading causes of accidents statewide. Common Motorcylist Injuries: Feet, Legs, and Hips The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSO) prepares annual reports detailing statewide crash and accident facts. These reports are broken down into various categories, including one devoted specifically to motorcyclists. According to OHSO’s 2014 data, there were 1,465 total motorcycle accidents in Oklahoma during that year: a daily average of roughly four accidents, or about one accident every six hours. Collectively, these 1,465 crashes resulted in 1,184 injuries and 55 deaths. Since a total of 129,404 motorcycles were registered in Oklahoma as of 2014, these numbers mean only about 1% of the state’s motorcycles were involved in accidents. While motorcycle accidents may be less common than car accidents in Oklahoma, they frequently result in death or serious injury – as the numbers cited above make all too plain. Because motorcycles lack key protective features like air bags and seat belts, riders and passengers are frequently ejected, often skidding for dozens of feet before finally coming to a stop. While certainly not useless, leather gear isn’t always sufficient to protect riders from sustaining severe “road rash” (skin abrasion). Scrubbing and disinfecting road rash wounds is an extremely painful process for the victim,... read more

Is it Legal to Text and Drive in Oklahoma?

Cell phones and smartphones have opened up worlds of information. However, they’ve also had a negative effect: an increased number of automotive accidents caused by distracted driving. In an effort to combat the problem, most states have enacted legislation banning texting while driving. Is Oklahoma among them? And just how big of a problem is distracted driving, anyway? Our car accident lawyers have the answers. OK Gov. Mary Fallin Signs Law Banning Texting While Driving Cell phone use in the United States has been on a steady rise for years. According to Pew Research Center data, 90% of U.S. adults reported having a cell phone as of January 2014, compared to just 53% in May 2000. If the numbers continue to follow this course, it will only be a matter of years before every adult in the United States owns a cell phone or smartphone. If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you may remember our February article about a proposed ban on texting and driving in Oklahoma. The proposal, known as House Bill 1965, was authored by Rep. Terry O’Donnell (R- Catoosa) in response to the tragic death of Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Nicholas Dees, who was killed after being struck by a distracted driver. The driver, who was using his smartphone to update a social media profile at the time of the accident, also seriously injured Dees’ partner, Trooper Keith Burch. At the time our previous article was published, HB 1965 had just been passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives, but was still making its way through the Senate. We’re pleased to report that HB... read more

Crashes Involving Semi-Trucks Rising in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says accidents and fatalities involving semi-trucks are increasing in Oklahoma at an alarming rate. OHP has reported 574 accidents in Oklahoma involving semi-trucks in June, July and the first half of August. Lt. Preston Lay, a supervisor of the OHP’s Troop S, said distracted driving is one reason for the increase. Troop S is the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit of the OHP. “Distracted driving” primarily refers to drivers who are talking or texting on their mobile phones. When a truck driver is preoccupied with his or her mobile device, or when a driver sharing the road with a semi-truck is distracted, disaster can result. Although it is not illegal for a standard driver to talk on the phone while driving, it is illegal for the driver of a semi-truck to use any hand-held device while driving. Other factors that cause semi-truck crashes include: • Fatigue: We all know how dangerous it is to drive when you are sleepy. The danger increases exponentially when you are behind the wheel of a truck carrying 5 tons or more of cargo. The laws governing truck driver “hours of service” are complicated. In a nutshell, a driver is limited to 14 hours of consecutive driving a day, and those 14 hours must include at least 3 hours of breaks. • Unsafe operation: Truck drivers facing deadlines or drivers running out of hours of service are tempted to speed, change lanes, tailgate, etc., to achieve their goals. Operating a semi-truck in an unsafe way endangers the lives of every other driver on the road. • Impaired driving: Of course, it... read more

Oklahoma Wrongful Death Lawsuit Brings National Scrutiny to Stand Your Ground Law

Parents of Monroe Bird III, the Tulsa man who in February was shot in the neck by a security guard in the parking lot of the apartment complex where he lived, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit. The death of Bird, 21 when he was shot, has gained national attention during a time when shootings of African American men by law enforcement officers — in this case, a security guard — have repeatedly made the news. The lawsuit will also draw national attention for its implications regarding the Stand Your Ground law, as well as bad faith insurance. I will enter the fray with a few opinions: 1. Oklahoma’s Stand Your Ground law, adopted in 2006, and similar laws in 44 other states, were designed to empower citizens to protect themselves against intruders in their homes and businesses. Such laws were never intended to make it easier for a private security guard to shoot an unarmed man in a residential parking lot. 2. Any time a uniformed officer shoots an unarmed person, there better be an extremely good explanation. Law enforcement officers and security guards are employed to protect the public, not endanger them. 3. It is shameful when insurance companies handle a claim the way Monroe Bird’s insurer handled his. The company used the confrontation between Stone and Bird to renege on Bird’s medical coverage. It appears that that decision played a big role in Bird’s death. 4. This is another incident in which citizens must turn to civil litigation to find justice. Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler never brought charges against Stone for shooting and ultimately... read more

How Much Can a Jury Award in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Oklahoma?

Is there a cap on how much can be awarded? I did a brief survey recently of what some other law firm websites in Oklahoma say about caps on medical malpractice awards. What a hodge-podge of information! For example, some of our colleagues say that the cap on noneconomic damages is $300,000, some say $350,000, and some say $400,000. There are two reasons for the confusion. One is that some websites are out-of-date. Our website,, has more than one thousand pages of legal information. Believe me, it takes a lot of hard work to maintain up-to-date information on our webpages and blog. Another reason for the conflicting information is that Oklahoma laws on medical malpractice have changed frequently during the last 12 years. Let’s get right to the most up-to-date information available. Four Kinds of Damages In a civil suit in Oklahoma for damages resulting from malpractice by a doctor, hospital or other health provider, there are four kinds of claims for damages that a plaintiff can make. * Economic damages. Economic damages include medical bills (past and future), lost income (past and future), and any other financial losses that have resulted from the malpractice. There is no limit or cap on the amount of economic damages a plaintiff can be awarded. * Noneconomic damages. In addition, a plaintiff may seek non-economic damages for such harms and losses as pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium (loss of the benefits of having a spouse). Oklahoma’s current cap on noneconomic damages is $350,000.  However, there are exceptions to that rule which allow... read more

Fiat Chrysler Hit with Record-Making Buy-back Order and Fines

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has reached a landmark settlement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that requires it to buy back about 200,000 Ram trucks and pay fines totaling more than $100 million. The automaker has had 23 recalls involving 11 million vehicles since 2013. Three of those recalls were announced just last Friday and Saturday, involving more than 3 million U.S. Ram trucks and other vehicles. (More about those three recalls is here: “Ram Trucks: Hackability, Airbag Problems and the Death Wobble.”) The NHTSA has complained that Fiat Chrysler has not handled its 23 recalls properly, leading to the buy-back program and the stiff fine. “In every one of the 23 recalls, we have identified ways in which Fiat Chrysler failed to do its job,” said Jennifer Timian, NHTSA acting head of defect investigations, in an NHTSA public hearing earlier this month. Ram is a subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and the Ram truck is the company’s top-selling vehicle. Largest Buy-Back Ever The buy-back is the largest ever ordered by the NHTSA. Fiat Chrysler must offer to buy back about 200,000 Ram pickup trucks and up to 100,000 other vehicles. The vehicles were recalled in 2013 for defective steering parts that can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles. The automaker has sold more than half a million Ram trucks covered by the buy-back order, but it says that more than 300,000 of those trucks have been repaired since the recalls. The NHTSA has essentially ordered Fiat Chrysler to offer the owners’ their money back on vehicles that are still not repaired, two years after the recalls... read more

Ram Trucks: Hackability, Airbag Problems and the Death Wobble

There is a lot of love out there in Oklahoma and across the nation for Ram trucks. The popular pickup trucks are branded as “real trucks” for “real truck drivers.” Ram’s website boasts that “Ram is the fastest growing truck brand in America.” The Ram brand has managed to keep its luster despite numerous recalls in the last two years. However, three more recalls over the weekend may cause even the most die-hard fans to question their beloved Ram trucks. Friday: Recall of “Hackable Automobiles” It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it is here and now: vehicles that can be commandeered remotely via the Internet. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced Friday that it is voluntarily recalling 1.4 million U.S. cars and trucks, including several models of Ram pickup trucks, Jeep Cherokees and other vehicles (full list below). The recall was prompted by two security researcher/hackers who revealed earlier this month that they were able to hack into a Jeep Cherokee SUV from 10 miles away via the Internet and take control of the vehicle’s engine, steering wheel and brakes. The hackers accessed the vehicle’s controls through Chrysler Uconnect, a dashboard system that provides built-in Internet connectivity by making the vehicles wi-fi hot-spots. The system provides GPS, emergency assistance, streaming TV and radio, and voice-activated cell phone calling. A bit frightening, isn’t it, to think of hackers taking control of moving vehicles! So far no accidents or injuries have been reported, so I guess that makes heroes of the security hackers who brought the problem to light. The recall instructs owners to download software from the automaker’s... read more

What Are the Worst Nursing Homes in Oklahoma?

There are more than 300 nursing homes in Oklahoma. Which ones are at the absolute worst? Which ones are way down at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to the quality of care they provide to their residents? I suppose there are many ways to rate and rank nursing homes. One of the best tools out there — when a person is looking for a good nursing home or wants to check on the quality of a particular home — is Nursing Home Compare, a website operated by the federal government. I have written about Nursing Home Compare several times on this blog. Nursing Home Compare provides a wealth of information about every nursing home that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding — which is just about every nursing home in operation. Information on each home includes: The name, address, number of beds, ownership, and many other details and stats. Full copies of health inspection reports and fire safety reports. Number of health deficiencies and the nature of those deficiencies. Staffing information. A 1- to 5-star rating in each of three categories: health inspections, staffing and quality measures. In a recent blog post, I wrote about Callaway Nursing Home in Sulphur. The federal government has terminated that home’s certification to receive Medicare/Medicaid funding, because of numerous health deficiencies the home has failed to remedy. As I was studying Nursing Home Compare’s information about Callaway Nursing Home, I wondered: How many other nursing facilities in Oklahoma are just as bad? One way to compare them is by considering those three ratings. The health inspections score is based on how... read more

Oklahoma Nursing Home Loses Medicare/Medicaid Certification

Owner Says Facility May Be Forced To Close Callaway Nursing Home in Sulphur may be forced to shut down because the federal government has terminated its certification to receive Medicare and Medicaid funding. The government says the home has numerous deficiencies that have the potential to put the home’s residents in “imminent harm.” The nursing home, about 85 miles southeast of Oklahoma City, is a for-profit nursing home with 86 beds. Seventy-five beds were occupied at the time of the facility’s last inspection. The nursing facility has brought a lawsuit against the federal government to protest the termination of its certification. According to that lawsuit, 55 of the home’s residents depend on Medicare or Medicaid to pay their bills, and the home will be forced to close without certification to be a Medicare/Medicaid provider. Callaway Nursing Home’s Low Rating According to Nursing Home Compare, a rating website operated by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Callaway Nursing Home is ranked in the bottom 20% of Oklahoma’s 300+ nursing homes. The rating lists 308 nursing homes, which are rated on a 1-to 5-star scale. Callaway, along with 75 other Oklahoma facilities, has an overall 1-star rating. Nursing Home Compare provides “quality-of-care information” on every Medicare/Medicaid-certified nursing home in the country. That’s more than 15,000 facilities, 92% of which receive Medicare and Medicaid funding. The Nursing Home Compare rating includes three scores plus an overall score. The three component scores are for: Health inspections, which are conducted by state and federal inspectors. Staffing — how many nurses and nursing assistants are on staff? Quality measures — how do residents... read more

Can an Oklahoma Adult File a Lawsuit for Sex Abuse Experienced as a Child?

What is the statute of limitations in Oklahoma for a person who was sexually abused as a child and wants to bring a lawsuit against the abuser? It may be longer than you think. The question was brought to mind this week by a lawsuit in California against Bill Cosby that accuses the entertainer of sexually abusing a 15-year-old girl at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles in 1974. That’s more than 40 years ago. The plaintiff, Judy Huth, is now in her 50s. Cosby is 78. Doesn’t the statute of limitations prevent a civil action so long after the alleged offense occurred? Nor necessarily. On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court decided to allow the lawsuit against Cosby to continue. A statute of limitations (SOL) is the legal deadline for a person to file a lawsuit. Many civil complaints have a SOL of two years. But when do those two years begin? For most offenses, the SOL begins when the offense occurs. However, in offenses against a minor, almost all states delay the SOL. The legal term for delaying a SOL is “tolling.” In Oklahoma, the SOL on childhood sexual abuse is tolled until the victim is 18. In other words, an 18-year-old has at least two years to file a complaint of being sexually abused as a child. For example, a 19-year-old could file a lawsuit about abuse experienced when she was 7, more than ten years earlier. In addition to the standard tolling for offenses against minors, many states provide additional SOL extensions specifically for cases of sexual abuse of children. These special provisions are based on... read more

Can Gay Workers in Oklahoma Sue for Workplace Discrimination?

Can a gay or lesbian Oklahoman bring an employment discrimination lawsuit if that worker believes he or she has experienced workplace discrimination because of one’s sexual orientation? The short answer is yes, absolutely. The longer answer is a bit more complicated. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is protected under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment. Some people may have thought that high court ruling was the last word on discrimination based on sexual orientation. That is hardly the case. Actually, there is no federal law and no Oklahoma state law that explicitly forbids unfair treatment in the workplace based on sexual orientation. Gay, lesbian and bisexual citizens report that the most common discrimination they experience is at work. Lamba Legal, a national legal advocacy organization for gay and lesbian rights, reports that employment is the No. 1 category of issues brought up by people who call its legal helpline. What About the Civil Rights Act? A ruling last week by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is being hailed by gay rights advocates as a big step toward workplace equality. The ruling provides a new interpretation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (gender), or national origin in workplaces, stores, schools and other public establishments. Sexual orientation is not explicitly mentioned by the act. However, the EEOC ruled that the landmark 1964 law does prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The agency reasoned that such discrimination is a form of gender bias, because it discriminates against a worker for behaviors or lifestyle decisions... read more

First-Hand Accounts of Auto Dealer Frauds and Scams

If you want a crash course on scams and frauds auto dealers like to pull on unsuspecting customers, a popular consumer site’s webpage devoted to Oklahoma’s David Stanley Dodge tells it all. Here on our own law firm website, we offer several pages of information about “Auto Fraud and Auto Dealer Scams in Oklahoma.” But to get some real, live, first-hand experience in auto dealer fraud, according to more than two dozen consumers who have described their experiences online, all you need to do is visit David Stanley Dodge in Midwest City or Norman. is one of the Internet’s most popular websites. It provides a public place for shoppers to describe their experiences with businesses in more than 150 categories. On a five-star scale, 29 out of 31 consumer reviewers gave David Stanley Dodge the lowest-possible one-star score. No Paperwork Robert of Edmond, in July 2014, wrote that he reached an agreement to purchase a new Dodge Dart for $17,500. After signing all of the paperwork, the dealer said they had additional work to do on the documents before they could provide Robert his copy. It took two weeks before Robert received his copy of the documents. When he studied the paperwork, he was shocked to see that the actual purchase price was $27,200, almost $10,000 more than he had agreed to. Bait and Switch Financing “Douglas” of Pryor, OK, wrote earlier this month that he browsed David Stanley’s online inventory and became interested in a 2015 Jeep Cherokee. Douglas said he didn’t want to make the 150-mile drive from Pryor to Midwest City for nothing, so he... read more

What to Do If Your Vehicle is Subject to a Recall

Also see Part 1: “What to Know When Your Car is Recalled.” Recalls of defective cars and trucks seem to continually be in the news, from the Takata airbag recalls that have dominated headlines for the last two years, to a steady parade of earlier vehicle defects that have resulted in lost lives, permanent injuries and many other damages. In my earlier post, I explained what prompts a recall, how recalls happen, and how to know if your vehicle is the subject of a recall. In this post, let’s discuss what to do when you learn that your vehicle has been recalled. 1. Don’t ignore it. Different experts have come up with a variety of totals, but they all agree that there are tens of millions of vehicles on the road that have been recalled but have not been fixed. Is your vehicle one of them? Recalls have become so common in recent years that some people may be inclined to not take them seriously. However, no recall is ever issued unless a genuine safety concern exists. Some deaths and injuries that result from defective vehicles happen after a recall announcement. The owners of those vehicles either did not know about the recall or chose to ignore it. That’s not what you want to do. When a manufacturer announces a voluntary recall, it is choosing to pay for the repairs and take a hit to its reputation rather than risk ignoring the problem. When the NHTSA is calling for the recall, it is because it has received complaints from car owners, has investigated, and has concluded that a genuine... read more

What to Know When Your Car is Recalled

Also see Part 2: “What to Do When Your Car is Recalled.” Takata Corp., one of the world’s largest manufacturers of airbags, last week expanded its airbag recall to include about 34 million cars and trucks in the U.S. When I last wrote about the Takata recall in March, the total was about 17 million vehicles in the U.S. and 22 million worldwide. The Takata recalls affect vehicles manufactured from 2000 to 2011 by at least 11 automakers, including Honda, Toyota and General Motors. At least six people have been killed by the defective airbags, including Ashley Parham, a Midwest City teenager killed in 2009 by airbag shrapnel to her neck in a minor collision in the high school parking lot. This month’s expansion makes the Takata recall the largest safety recall in U.S. history. With about 250 million vehicles currently on U.S. roads, the recall affects about one out of every 7 cars. Just like the rain here in Oklahoma the last few weeks, the torrent of auto and truck recalls never seems to stop. Last year, it was the General Motors ignition switch recall, which involved about 25 million cars in the U.S. GM has now admitted that more than 100 deaths are connected to those ignition switch problems. The cars would just shut off while being driven, disabling the power steering and the airbag. There have been about 100 million vehicle recalls in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2014, and about 25 million of those have occurred so far in 2015. Nowadays, if you own a car or truck, the odds are good that your vehicle... read more
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