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Helm v. Board of County Commissioners of Rogers County

Court of Civil Appeals of Oklahoma, Division No. 1

October 21, 2019

Dee Ann HELM, formerly known as Dee Ann Cramer, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF ROGERS COUNTY, Oklahoma, Defendant/Appellee.

          Mandate Issued: 11/14/2019

         THIS OPINION HAS BEEN RELEASED FOR PUBLICATION BY ORDER OF THE COURT OF CIVIL APPEALS, Division 1

Page 495

          APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF ROGERS COUNTY, OKLAHOMA; HONORABLE SHEILA A. CONDREN, JUDGE

         Stanley D. Monroe, Ann E. Keele, MONROE & KEELE, PC, Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Plaintiff/Appellant,

         Thomas A. LeBlanc, Matthew B. Free, Jessica L. Johnson, BEST & SHARP, Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Defendant/Appellee.

         OPINION

          GOREE, CHIEF JUDGE

         [¶1] Dee Ann Helm (Plaintiff/Appellant) was employed by Rogers County as an administrative assistant. Rogers County terminated her employment and she filed a petition to recover unpaid wages and a penalty pursuant to 40 O.S.Supp. 2005 § 165.3 of the Protection of Labor Act. The Board of County Commissioners of Rogers County (Defendant/Appellee) filed a motion to dismiss.

         [¶2] The County argued Helm’s claim is barred by the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act because she did not comply with its notice provisions. The trial court agreed and granted the County’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. 12 O.S. § 2012(B)(6). Helm appealed. She argues the dismissal was erroneous because her action is contractual and the GTCA does not apply. We review the order de novo because a motion to dismiss tests the law governing a claim. Dani v. Miller, 2016 OK 35, ¶10, 374 P.3d 779, 785-86. The legal question is whether Plaintiff’s claim is a tort within the meaning of 51 O.S.Supp. 2014 § 152(14).

         [¶3] "Tort" is defined by the GTCA as:

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 or corporation as the proximate result of an act or omission of a political subdivision or the state or an employee acting within the scope of employment.

(§ 152(14), emphasis added.) Accordingly, we must examine the petition and analyze whether Helm is requesting relief, independent of contract, involving violation of a duty imposed by statute and within the meaning of the Governmental Tort Claims Act.

         [¶4] Helm’s petition states, (1) she was an employee of the County, (2) her employment was terminated, (3) she had accrued unpaid personal and vacation leave for which she was not paid, and (4) pursuant to 40 O.S. § 165.3, she is entitled to past-due wages and a statutory penalty of 2% per day. The ...


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