Articles Posted in Oklahoma Supreme Court

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Petitioner Emilee Mullendore was employed as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) with Mercy Hospital in Ardmore, Oklahoma. While working during her assigned hospital shift, Petitioner entered the fifth floor nutrition room and assembled 8 separate one pound bags of ice for the patients. She then turned to open the door out of the nutrition room, took a step into the doorway and "I felt my right foot slip out to the right and then the top part of my leg and my knee turned in to the left." Petitioner immediately fell onto the floor and was unable to walk on her leg. Petitioner had worked over six hours of her shift without difficulty before her accident. At the time, Petitioner was twenty-one years old. Mullendore was evaluated in the emergency room within a few hours after the accident complaining of "right knee pain - says she just stepped and fell." Petitioner filed a claim to the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Commission seeking the recovery of medical care for the injury and requested the reservation of the issue of whether she was entitled to recover temporary total disability benefits. Petitioner claimed she sustained a compensable injury to her right knee as a result of an unexplained fall that arose out of her performing employment related services for the hospital. Respondent-hospital denied the claim contending the injury was not work-related but was idiopathic in nature, arising out of a condition that was personal to Petitioner. Both parties retained a physician expert who conducted an exam, reviewed medical records and issued a written report. Neither expert testified at the hearing; the ALJ was provided their respective written reports. Petitioner sought review of the Workers' Compensation Commission's Order en banc, which upheld the administrative law judge's Order Denying Compensability finding that Petitioner's injury to her right leg/knee was idiopathic in origin and noncompensable under the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the Commission en banc. After its review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held Petitioner's knee injury was indeed a "compensable injury" within the meaning of the Oklahoma Administrative Workers' Compensation Act. 85 A O.S. Supp. 2018 section 2 (9)(a). View "Mullendore v. Mercy Hospital Ardmore" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Kelli Braitsch injured her right arm while employed by the City of Tulsa and after the effective date of the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act (AWCA). Through her collective bargaining agreement, Braitsch was paid her full salary in lieu of temporary total disability (TTD) payments. She was later awarded permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits which were reduced by the amount her full salary payments were in excess of TTD benefits pursuant to 85A O.S. 89. Braitsch argued 85A O.S. 89 denied her due process of the law and was an unconstitutional special law. The Administrative Law Judge denied the constitutional challenges and the Workers' Compensation Commission en banc affirmed the ALJ's decision. This appeal concerns only the asserted constitutional challenges. "Every presumption is to be indulged in favor of the constitutionality of a statute," and the Oklahoma Supreme Court found Braitsch failed to "bear the heavy burden of establishing 85A O.S. 89 is unconstitutional." The Court found the provisions of 85A O.S. 89 neither violated Braitsch's right to due process of law nor was the statute a special law. The Order Affirming Decision of Administrative Law Judge was affirmed. View "Braitsch v. City of Tulsa" on Justia Law

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In 2013, DHS removed R.M, C.M., and E.M., then eight (8) years and six (6) months, six (6) years and ten (10) months, and four (4) years and ten (10) months old respectively, from Mother's custody. The questions this case presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court's review were whether: (1) the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) provided reasonable efforts to reunite Mother with Children; (2) the State presented clear and convincing evidence to support the termination of parental rights; and (3) Mother's trial counsel provided effective assistance. The Court answered all questions in the affirmative, and affirmed the district court's judgment. View "In the Matter of C.M." on Justia Law

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Petitioner Trina Engles received temporary total disability benefits in 2006, for a December 2, 2005 injury. She had fallen backwards in a chair at work, which caused the injury. On January 15, 2010, Engles received permanent partial disability benefits for the neck injury. She had previously suffered a non-work-related injury in 1998. That injury occurred from an electrocution and fall at her home. She had multiple back and neck surgeries as a result. Ultimately she was awarded benefits from the Multiple Injury Trust Fund based on the most recent Court of Civil Appeals decision. MITF filed a timely petition for certiorari to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, arguing the Court had never before addressed the conclusion and holding of the Court of Civil Appeals. It argued the holding that a PTD benefit claimant against MITF may reopen an underlying case during the pendency of a claim against MITF, settle the reopened claim, and then use the settlement to later obtain a MITF award after another division of the Court of Civil Appeals ruled there was no jurisdiction for claimant's claim of benefits against MITF. MITF also argued the court did not follow the Supreme Court's jurisprudence, arguing it ignored the law-of-the-case doctrine. MITF claims the court did not correctly apply the statute, ignoring the Court's case law that a change of condition for the worse was not a subsequent injury under section 172. MITF contended that Engles was not eligible for benefits as she only has one previous adjudicated injury and her change of condition for the worse just reopened the original injury. Finally, MITF argued the court determined the competence of evidence sua sponte, contradicting Oklahoma case law. The Supreme Court agreed that Engles had one adjudicated injury, and suffered no subsequent injury after her 2005 injury; she could not be a physically impaired person and the appellate court lacked jurisdiction against MITF. "Reopening a lone injury and characterizing the resulting compromise settlement as a second adjudicated injury cannot establish jurisdiction over MITF." The Court vacated the opinion of the Court of Civil Appeals and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Engles v. Multiple Injury Trust Fund" on Justia Law

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The petitioner-employer sought review of the Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims which upheld a trial court's determination that respondent-employee Jennifer Hodge suffered a change of condition for the worse to her left leg/knee when she was injured in a medical facility where she was receiving medical treatment to a previously adjudicated body part. The employer urged there was insufficient evidence to support the trial court's decision because: (1) any injury arose from an intervening negligent act; and (2) there was no medical evidence to support a worsening of condition to employee's left leg/knee. The three-judge panel disagreed with Employer and affirmed the trial court. Employer then filed a Petition for Review and the Court of Civil Appeals vacated the decision of the three-judge panel. Hodge filed a Petition for Certiorari to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Granting review, the Supreme Court found competent evidence to support the decisions from the trial court and the three-judge panel. Accordingly, the Court vacated the Court of Civil Appeals and affirmed the Workers' Compensation Court. View "City of Tulsa v. Hodge" on Justia Law

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The question before the Oklahoma Supreme Court in this case centered on whether evidence in the underlying workers compensation proceeding should have been excluded by the administrative law judge, as well as the constitutionality of several provisions of the Administrative Workers Compensation Act (AWCA) that required mandatory use of the Sixth Edition of the American Medical Association's Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides, Sixth Edition) to evaluate permanent partial disability (PPD). Petitioner Robert Hill was a paramedic working for Respondent American Medical Response (Employer), when he injured his right shoulder while lifting a person of large body habitus. Hill underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. After post-operative physical therapy, Hill was released at maximum medical improvement and given permanent restrictions. Employer admitted the injury and benefits were provided pursuant to the provisions of the AWCA. Employer was apparently unable to accommodate Hill's permanent restrictions, and so Hill was no longer employed with American Medical Response. Per Hill's testimony, he found work with a new employer and made approximately 25% less per year. Hill submitted a report by Dr. Stephen Wilson, who opined that Hill sustained 8% whole person impairment pursuant to the AMA Guides, Sixth Edition, and 31.8% impairment pursuant to the AMA Guides, Fifth Edition. Dr. Wilson did not express an opinion as to which rating more accurately described Hill's PPD. Employer's evaluating physician, Dr. William Gillock, asserted in his own report that Hill sustained 4.2% whole person impairment pursuant to the AMA guides, Sixth Edition. The Supreme Court determined the administrative law judge did not err by admitting the challenged evidence. Furthermore, the Court determined the mandatory use of the AMA Guides, Sixth Edition, for assessing impairment for non-scheduled members did not violate the Constitution. View "Hill v. American Medical Response" on Justia Law

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CompSource Mutual Insurance Company and the Oklahoma Association of Electric Self Insurers requested rebates from the Oklahoma Tax Commission based upon previously paid Multiple Injury Trust Fund assessments. The requests were denied as an Executive Order by the Governor stated the authority for the rebates had been repealed by implication and directed no rebates be funded. The parties seeking rebates filed a protest with the Oklahoma Tax Commission. The protests were consolidated and an administrative law judge concluded the Protestants were entitled to the rebates. The Tax Commission, with two Commissioners voting, denied both protests and directed the administrative law judge to issue findings, conclusions and recommendations consistent with the denial. The protestants appealed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court in separate appeals. Protestants filed motions to retain which were granted and their appeals were made companion appeals by prior order of the Court. The Supreme Court consolidated the cases for a single opinion, holding no repeal by implication occurred, the statute at issue was not expressly repealed by the Legislature, no due process violation occurred when the requests for rebates were denied, protestants were not entitled to payment of interest on their rebates, and the cases were remanded to the Tax Commission for processing the protestants' requests for rebates. View "CompSource Mutual Ins. Co. v. Oklahoma ex rel. Okla. Tax Comm." on Justia Law

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Petitioner Octavio Pina was employed as a pipeline installer by American Piping Inspection, Inc. At the time of his injury, he worked at an oilrig site approximately 130 miles away from his home. Petitioner traveled weekly to Employer's drilling site; he would work 6 days then return home on the weekend. Employer provided a daily per diem payment for lodging and meals incurred. Employer used Petitioner's truck to haul work related equipment and materials and paid him $50 per day for the use of his truck. At the time of Petitioner's injury, it was the practice of Employer to pay for the gas necessary to refuel Petitioner's truck each morning before traveling to the rig site. Petitioner was required to stop at the Employer-designated gas station at the time set by the supervisor. Employer also agreed to purchase ice and water each day for the entire crew, but only if they stopped at the designated gas station at the time specified by Employer. Employer had been paying for Petitioner's gasoline for three months prior to his injury. On the morning of September 22, 2014, Petitioner met his supervisor at the designated gas station to get ice, water and gasoline. The supervisor agreed that "Claimant was reporting to work that morning when he made it to the gas station." On his way to the worksite, Petitioner had a collision and sustained serious injuries. Emergency medical care was given and Petitioner was transported via helicopter for medical treatment. Petitioner never arrived at the drilling site that morning. Although Petitioner did not sign the attendance sheet at the rig site that morning, Employer paid him for a full day of work. Petitioner filed a claim for benefits under the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act (AWCA). Employer denied the claim was compensable within the meaning of the AWCA on the following grounds: (1) Petitioner was not performing employment services at the time of injury; and (2) the injury did not occur in the course and scope of employment. The administrative law judge determined Petitioner's injury did not occur in the course and scope of employment within the meaning of the AWCA and denied his claim. The Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed, finding Petitioner was in the course and scope of his employment as the term was defined in 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 sec 2 (13) because his actions at the time of injury were related to and in furtherance of the business of the employer. View "Pina v. American Piping Inspection" on Justia Law

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This case involved an order of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission that granted Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company pre-approval to install pollution-control devices at one of its power plants. The order raised two issues: (1) whether res judicata precluded the Commission from pre-approving OG&E's capital expenditure; and (2) whether the Commission could grant pre-approval under Okla. Const. art. 9, section 181 and 17 O.S. 2011 sec. 151 et seq. rather than 17 O.S. 2011 sec. 286(B). The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that although res judicata did not preclude the Commission from pre-approving the expenditure, it lacked authority outside of 17 O.S. 2011 sec. 286(B)2 to do so. View "Sierra Club v. Oklahoma Corporation Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Within the 2006 through 2010 tax years, the Oklahoma Tax Commission and the Oklahoma State Board of Equalization issued certified assessments of certain public property physically located within the boundaries of the Stroud school district. Ad valorem taxes associated with these properties were distributed by the Lincoln County Treasurer to the Cushing and Wellston districts, instead of to Stroud. The error was discovered and subsequently corrected by the Lincoln County Board of Tax Roll Corrections during the 2010-2011 fiscal year. There was no disagreement among the three school districts that they were not responsible for the errors made in the distribution of the ad valorem taxes. To recover the funds that should have been Stroud's, Stroud sued Cushing and Wellston school districts. Stroud filed its petition on April 22, 2013. The defendant school districts filed a motion for summary judgment in December of 2014. In the same month, the plaintiff responded with its own motion for summary judgment. Stroud received the taxes from the property identified as within its district; Cushing received the taxes from the property identified as within its district; and Wellston received the taxes from the property identified as within its district. The Oklahoma Supreme Court found Stroud received the same amount for its general funds that it would have received had the ad valorem taxes been properly allocated. Nevertheless, it demanded additional funds from Cushing and Wellston that it would have received if the real property had been correctly identified. The Court determined if that amount was paid to Stroud, then Cushing and Wellston would have deficits in those districts that they would not have if the real property had been correctly identified. Stroud did not believe the other two school districts are entitled to a setoff if they paid Stroud the misallocated ad valorem taxes. The Court found all three school districts were victims of this error, but no district failed to receive the funds needed for their respective districts. The Court reversed judgments against the Cushing and Wellston districts and that in favor of Stroud: "county and state officials will make mistakes in the taxing of property and the distribution of taxes." View "Independent Sch. Dist. No. 54 v. Independent Sch. Dist. No. 67" on Justia Law