|Patel v. Tulsa Pain Consultants, 2022 OK 56
|Attorney’s Fees in Wrongful Termination Claim
|June 14, 2022
|District Court of Tulsa County; Judge Sellers
|Route to this Court:
|Appeal from Order Granting Directed Verdict; COCA affirmed, but denied request for appeal-related attorney’s fees; Petition for Certiorari granted on issue of attorney’s fees.
|Dr. Patel brought a tort claim for wrongful termination against Tulsa Pain Consultants. At trial, the District Court found that Patel was not an at-will employee based on the Variable Compensation and Employment Agreement and the Shareholders’ Agreement. Therefore, Patel could not prevail on his Burk tort claim. The Court granted a directed verdict in favor of TPC. Patel appealed, and COCA affirmed. TPC then requested appeal-related attorney’s fees pursuant to the Employment Agreement. COCA denied the request, and TPC petitioned for certiorari on that issue.
|Standard of Review:
|A party may seek appeal-related attorney’s fees if there is statutory and/or decisional authority allowing fees or contractual authority allowing fees. Whether TPC has a contractual right to an award of appeal-related fees presents a question of law reviewed de novo.
|Employment Agreement at issue provided: “If the services of an attorney are required by a party to secure the performance or interpretation of this agreement, the prevailing party will be entitled to reasonable attorney fees, costs and other expenses.” The Court concluded that even though the underlying wrongful termination claim was a tort, the Employment Agreement provided for award of fees to the prevailing party in this case because this Agreement had to be “interpreted” in order to decide the wrongful termination claim. The case was remanded to the District Court to determine the amount of appeal-related attorney’s fees that should be awarded to TPC.
|Order of the Court of Civil Appeals Denying Appeal-Related Fees Vacated; Motion for Appeal-Related Fees is Granted; Remanded to Trial Court.
|8-0 Concur: Darby, C.J., Kane, V.C.J. (author), Kauger, Winchester, Edmondson, Combs, Gurich, and Rowe, JJ. Recused: Kuehn, J.