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Huggins v. Four Seasons Nursing Ctrs., Inc., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78662 (N.D. Okla. 2007)

Plaintiff alleged that Four Seasons Nursing Centers abused her mother. She maintained that ManorCare’s conscious indifference to her mother’s unresponsive and comatose condition during the summer of 2005 lead to her mother’s hospitalization and eventual death. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss alleged violations of the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act and to dismiss claims for punitive damages.

Defendant argued that the OCPA specifically exempts nursing facility services, and that plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages should be dismissed because the Oklahoma statutory provision governing punitive damages is unconstitutional. In dismissing the OCPA claim, the court relied on In Estate of Hicks v. Urban E., Inc., 2004 OK 36, 92 P.3d 88, 94-95 (Okla. 2004), finding that because nursing facility services are regulated by a state agency, the OCPA does not apply to claims arising from such services.

The court granted the motion to dismiss the punitive damages claim subject to Plaintiff’s right to properly plead punitive damages. Punitive damages are not an independent claim; instead, they are a type of damages arising for breach of an obligation not arising from contract. It was unclear which underlying claim plaintiff was seeking punitive damages for. In light of this decision, the court determined it was premature to decide Defendant’s claim that the the statute is unconstitutional.

Decided October 22, 2007

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