GRAHAM v. STATE

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GRAHAM v. STATE
1938 OK 542
83 P.2d 815
183 Okla. 574
Case Number: 25432
Decided: 10/25/1938
Supreme Court of Oklahoma

Graham
v.
State

Syllabus by the Court.

¶0 STATUTES--States--Joint Resolution Authorizing Plaintiff to Sue State Held Violative of Constitutional Provision Prohibiting Enactment of Special Law Where General Law Can Be Made Applicable
By the provisions of Senate Joint Resolution No. 10 of the 14th Legislature (Chapter 171, S.L.1933), a special legislative act, plaintiff was authorized to institute and maintain an action against the state to determine liability and recover damages for personal injuries sustained as a result of alleged negligence of the officers, agents and employees of the State Highway Department in failing to properly maintain a state highway. Assuming that the Joint Resolution has the dignity and standing of a law, it is held, that said act contravenes that portion of Section 59, Article 5 of the Constitution, Okl.St.Ann.Const. art. 5, § 59, which prohibits the enactment of a special law where a general law can be made applicable, and is unconstitutional and invalid.

Appeal from District Court, Delaware County; Ad V. Coppedge, Judge.

Action by Jessie Graham against the State of Oklahoma to recover damages for personal injuries allegedly sustained when plaintiff drove an automobile into an excavation on the state highway. From a judgment in favor of the State of Oklahoma, the plaintiff appeals.

Judgment affirmed.

W. H. Coutts, Jr., of El Dorado, Kan., and Dyke Ballinger and Bryce Ballinger, both of Miami, for plaintiff in error.
Mac Q. Williamson, Atty. Gen., and Fred Hansen, Asst. Atty. Gen., for the State.

OSBORN, Chief Justice.

¶1 Plaintiff, Jessie Graham, instituted this action in the district court of Delaware county against the State of Oklahoma to recover damages for personal injuries which she alleged were sustained when she drove an automobile into an excavation on State Highway No. 10 in Delaware County. It was alleged that the servants and agents of the State Highway Department were negligent in leaving the excavation unguarded and in failing to erect detour signs or warning signals to warn approaching travelers of the danger. The trial court sustained a demurrer to plaintiff's petition and dismissed the action and plaintiff has appealed. The parties will be referred to as they appeared in the trial court.

¶2 The action was instituted under authority of Senate Joint Resolution No. 10 of the 14th Legislature, Chapter 171, S.L.1933, which purported to authorize plaintiff to institute an action against the State. Several propositions are urged by the Attorney General appearing for the State, in support of the contention that the Joint Resolution is unconstitutional and ineffective. It is urged, first, that a Legislative Joint Resolution is not an enactment of law, but a mere expression of Legislative opinion, and that immunity of the State from suit can only be waived by enactment of a statute. In support of the contention are cited the cases of Hawks v. Bland, 156 Okl. 48, 9 P.2d 720; Wright v. Carter, 161 Okl. 281, 18 P.2d 522. It is unnecessary to determine that proposition in this case for if the Joint Resolution has the standing and dignity of a law, it is a special law and under the holding of this court in the case of Jack v. State, opinion filed June 15, 1937, not yet reported [in State Reports], the same is unconstitutional and invalid.

¶3 The judgment is affirmed.