Mandate Issued: 07/24/2019
FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF OKLAHOMA COUNTY, OKLAHOMA
HONORABLE RICHARD C. OGDEN, TRIAL JUDGE
Sloan, SLOAN LAW OFFICE, P.C., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for
Robyn Assaf, Alia Al-Assaf, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for
F. Pignato, Benjamin M. McCaslin, PIGNATO, COOPER, KOLKER
& ROBERSON, P.C., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for GEICO
The defendant, The Pain Management Solution, PLLC (Pain
Management), appeals a judgment adjudicating claims in an
action brought by the plaintiff Oliver Dale Dallas (Dallas).
The remaining defendants, except Geico Insurance Company
(Geico), either did not object to the judgment or did not
appear.  Geico provided the money which is the
subject of this action. 
Dallas alleged that he sustained injury as a passenger when
his wife, the driver, applied the brakes to avoid a
collision. The other vehicle left the scene and that driver
has not been identified. Dallas received medical treatments
from all of the medical provider defendants.
Dallas retained his attorney. The attorney pursued an
uninsured motorist (UM) claim against Dallas's insurer,
Geico. After negotiations, and without a lawsuit, the UM
claim was settled for the sum of $60, 614.78. This sum was
insufficient to pay the attorney fee and the medical
Dallas's attorney filed this action to adjudicate medical
liens and claims and to apportion the fund. The petition set
out the source of the funds and the statement that counsel
and Dallas had a fifty percent contingency fee contract.
Counsel endorsed "Attorney's Lien Claimed" on
the petition.  The petition listed the medical
providers and their claims and liens.
The trial court conducted a hearing. During the hearing, the
trial court inquired of Dallas's attorney if he had a
fifty percent, written fee contract, and counsel affirmed
that he did have the contract. The trial court clearly
accepted the statement without having the contract admitted
into evidence. Counsel also explained that the reason for the
amount of the contingency was due to the complex case
circumstances of no collision, no other driver, and a
criminal matter against Mrs. Dallas, which is apparently
related to the traffic incident. 
During the course of the hearing, counsel for Pain Management
offered into evidence a letter purporting to be a $52, 000.00
settlement offer from Geico. Dallas's attorney objected,
and the trial court sustained the objection.
Dallas's attorney presented a proposed division of
proceeds. The proposal awarded counsel the full attorney fee
and costs and divided, proportionately, the balance among the
participating medical claimants. Only Pain Management
objected, and it now appeals. As briefed, Pain Management
asserts error regarding evidentiary issues and error
regarding whether Dallas's counsel has a lien and any
legal right to priority.
The principle issues in this case do not involve factual
questions, but rather interpretations of statutes, rules and
prior case law. Thus, the appeal presents questions of law
which are reviewed de novo. Kluver v.
Weatherford Hosp. Auth., 1993 OK 85, ¶ 14, 859 P.2d
1081, 1084. "Issues of law are reviewable by a de
novo standard and an appellate court claims for itself
plenary independent and non-deferential authority to
reexamine a trial court's legal rulings."
"[A] judgment will not be reversed based on a trial
judge's ruling to admit or exclude evidence absent a
clear abuse of discretion." Myers v. Missouri
Pacific R.R., 2002 OK 60, ¶ 36, 52 P.3d 1014,
1032-33. "An abuse of discretion takes place when the
decision is based on an erroneous interpretation of the law,
on factual findings that are unsupported by proof, or
represents an unreasonable judgment in weighing relevant
factors." Oklahoma City Zoological Trust v. State ex
rel. Public Employees Relations Bd., 2007 OK 21, ¶
5, 158 P.3d 461, 463-64.
The complaint about not requiring the written attorney
contingent fee contract does not show error. The trial court
specifically inquired and was told by the attorney that there
is a contract. The trial court was satisfied as to its
existence, and the critical point was the amount of the
contingency. Pain Management has not demonstrated any abuse
of discretion or absence of critical information for the
trial court. Moreover, the Pain ...