Articles Posted in Government & Administrative 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

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Appellants ("Customers") requested the Oklahoma Supreme Court reverse the Oklahoma Corporation Commission's ("Commission") Order Dismissing Cause and remand the underlying application to the Commission for a full hearing. Appellants were a group of six different individuals who were customers of the Defendant, Southwestern Bell Telephone d/b/a AT&T Oklahoma ("SWBT"). Customers filed their Application in 2015, asking the Commission to vacate or modify PUD 260 entered in 1989 in order "to redress the proven bribery and corruption perpetrated by Southwestern Bell Telephone Company [SWBT] that occurred in 1989 in relation to Oklahoma Corporation Commission's . . . Cause No. PUD (Public Utility Docket) 860000260 ("PUD 260")." The then-acting public utility division director for the Commission, initiated PUD 260 to determine how SWBT should distribute or utilize SWBT's surplus cash created by federal corporate tax reforms. Two of the three Commissioners approved the 1989 Order wherein it was determined that SWBT surplus revenue should not be refunded to its ratepayers. Commissioner Hopkins ("Hopkins"), was one of the two commissioners who voted in favor of the 1989 Order. Several years after the adoption of this Order, the public learned that Hopkins had accepted a bribe in exchange for assuring his favorable vote to the 1989 Order. Hopkins was indicted in 1993 and then later convicted for his criminal act. Commissioner Anthony announced in 1992 that he had been secretly acting as an investigator and informant in an ongoing FBI investigation concerning the conduct of his fellow commissioners and of SWBT. Following Hopkins' conviction, in 1997, Anthony, pro se, filed a document titled "Suggestion to the Court," advising the Supreme Court of the criminal misconduct of Hopkins and asked it Court to recall its mandate issued in Henry v. Southwestern Bell Telephone Co., 825 P.2d 1305. The Supreme Court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The case was remanded back to the Commission which determined the matter should be closed in its entirety. The Commission's order was not appealed. In January 2010, Anthony again filed a "Suggestion for Sua Sponte Recall of Mandate, Vacation of Opinion, and Remand of Cause to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission for Want of Appellate Jurisdiction with Brief in Support of Suggested Actions." The Oklahoma Supreme Court found it was bound to uphold the findings and conclusion of the Commission where they are "sustained by the law and substantial evidence." The Commission's Order Dismissing Cause contained overwhelming evidence and legal authority supporting its Order. The Order Dismissing Cause, Order No. 655899 was thus affirmed. View "Clements v. Southwestern Bell Telephone" on Justia Law

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Appellant Robert Parsons was charged with first degree murder, but was subsequently adjudged not guilty by reason of insanity. At a hearing following Appellant's acquittal, the trial court determined he was a continuing threat of danger to the public, and ordered him committed to the Oklahoma Forensic Center. After making progress in his treatment, the Oklahoma Forensic Review Board recommended Appellant begin a group therapy program one day per week at a facility outside of OFC. The District Attorney protested the FRB's treatment proposal, and the trial judge sustained the State's objection. Appellant sought review of the trial court's ruling; however, the OCCA transferred the matter to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. At issue was whether the case presented criminal or civil law issues. The Oklahoma Supreme Court found the issues pertaining to Appellant's therapeutic visits, under 22 O.S.2011 sec. 1161(F), were civil in nature and were properly within its jurisdiction. Furthermore, the Court concluded the trial court's order sustaining the State's objection to therapeutic visits was erroneous. View "Parsons v. Dist. Court of Pushmataha Cty." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought an action against the City of Oklahoma City alleging they suffered damages from a sewer backup. The jury returned a verdict for plaintiffs. The district court reduced the jury award to each couple to $25,000.00 for property damages. Plaintiffs appealed and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court. Plaintiffs appealed and asserted they were entitled to an additional amount per couple as awarded by the jury. The City argued a notice of claim had to specify with particularity property damages and other damages. The judge's decision in reducing the verdict was based upon two concepts: (1) a plaintiff must specify whether damages have occurred to (a) property or (b) "any other loss" as part of the pre-suit notice to the governmental entity, and (2) the absence of such specificity in the notice invalidates the notice as to either type of loss not specifically named with particularity in the notice. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held a claimant's notice of "property damage" without stating "any other loss" in the notice was a sufficient notice for property damage but not sufficient notice for any other loss. The Court held plaintiffs' GTCA notices of claim using the form provided by the City of Oklahoma City and claiming specific damage to their property were also required by the GTCA to provide notice of a claim for personal injuries (or "any other loss") arising from that same transaction or occurrence in order to bring their subsequent suit in District Court for both property damage and personal injury/nuisance. The Court's holding was prospective. The opinion of the Court of Civil Appeals was vacated, the judgment of the District Court was reversed, and the matter was remanded with directions to grant plaintiffs a new trial on both their property and personal injury claims. View "Grisham v. City of Oklahoma City" on Justia Law

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A workers' compensation claimant suffered a hernia and recurrent hernia due to work. He requested a contested hearing on the constitutionality of the hernia provision of the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act, 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 section 61. An administrative law judge determined 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 sec. 61 to be constitutional. Claimant appealed. The Workers' Compensation Commission affirmed the determination of the administrative law judge. The question presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court's review was whether the hernia provision was unconstitutional because: (1) it violated the due process rights of claimants guaranteed by U.S. Const. amend. XIV, sec. 1 and Okla. Const. art. 2, sec. 7; (2) it was a special law prohibited by Okla. Const. art. 5, sec. 46; and (3) it failed to provide an adequate remedy for a recognized wrong, in violation of Okla. Const. art. 2, sec. 6. The Supreme Court answered in the negative. However, in light of it's opinion in Corbeil v. Emricks Van & Storage, 2017 OK 71, ___ P.3d ___, this case was remanded for further proceedings concerning the application of 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 sec. 61. View "Graham v. D&K Oilfield Services" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Lyle Corbeil suffered bilateral inguinal hernias at work, filed for workers' compensation benefits, and asked for a contested hearing on the issue of temporary total disability. The administrative law judge determined that petitioner was limited to six weeks of temporary total disability, despite petitioner's contention he suffered two hernias and should have been eligible for twelve weeks total (six for each hernia). Petitioner appealed to the Workers' Compensation Commission, which affirmed the administrative law judge. The question presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court's review was whether the hernia provision of the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act (AWCA), 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 section 61, permitted an award of up to six weeks of temporary total disability (TTD) for each hernia suffered by a claimant, regardless of whether the hernias occurred, or were repaired, simultaneously. The Court held that it did, reversed the Commission's decision and remanded for further proceedings. View "Corbeil v. Emericks Van & Storage" on Justia Law