Articles Posted in Personal Injury

by
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

by
Daniel Phillips was convicted of multiple counts of indecent or lewd acts with children under the age of sixteen. The mother of the children sued Phillips, alleging various torts arising out of his crimes. The mother moved for partial summary judgment in the case, arguing that Phillips's conviction for the crimes established his liability for the torts. In response, Phillips argued that because his conviction was the product of an Alford plea--where a defendant admitted there was sufficient evidence to support a conviction, but nonetheless insisted that he did not commit the crimes--his conviction could not preclude him from disputing liability in the civil case. The district court agreed with the mother, granting partial summary adjudication in her favor on the issue of liability. Phillips asked the district court to certify that decision for immediate review. The district court did so, and Phillips timely petitioned the Oklahoma Supreme Court for certiorari. The Court granted the petition and, finding no reversible error in the district court's decision, affirmed. View "Martin v. Phillips" on Justia Law

by
The estate of a driver killed in a vehicle/train collision sued a railroad company in a wrongful death action. The District Court entered judgment on the jury verdict finding the driver and railroad negligent and apportioned fault. The railroad, Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad Company (BNSF) appealed, and also appealed the post-trial order overruling its motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, motion for a new trial. In substance, BNSF contended that federal law preempted the driver's claims, challenged the fairness of the trial proceedings and challenged the amount of damages awarded. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed judgment in favor of the driver's estate. View "Nye v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

by
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

by
James David Lind, Sr. (Decedent) was an employee of Defendant-appellee Barnes Tag Agency Inc. (BTA). Decedent was hired in 2010, to perform maintenance work on property owned individually by Defendant Jim T. Roy Barnes (Barnes), the sole stockholder of BTA. On February 21, 2010, there was an explosion on the property while Decedent was present, resulting in a fire. Descendent sustained severe injuries that led to his death on February 26, 2010. Plaintiff-appellant, the administrator Lind’s estate filed suit against BTA and the sole stockholder, alleging negligence. The defendants moved for summary judgment arguing they possessed immunity from suit pursuant to the provisions of the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Act. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The administrator appealed, arguing the trial court erred by determining that Jim T. Roy Barnes, as the individual owner of the property, was immune from suit. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. The question presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s review in this case was whether the sole shareholder of a corporation, who individually owned the property where an employee of the corporation sustained fatal injuries, was immune from suit for common-law negligence in district court under the provisions of the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Act. The Supreme Court held in the negative: a corporation and its sole owner and shareholder are separate entities and the immunity of the workers' compensation laws that shields the corporation from tort liability to employees does not extend to the owner of the corporation as a third-party landowner. View "Lind v. Barnes Tag Agency" on Justia Law

by
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit certified a question of Oklahoma law to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Plaintiff-Appellant Perry Odom was an employee of Penske Logistics, LLC. Penske Logistics, LLC was a wholly owned subsidiary of Defendant-Appellee Penske Truck Leasing Co. (PTLC). After a trailer owned by PTLC fell on Odom and injured him, he filed a claim against his employer, Penske Logistics, LLC, pursuant to the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act (AWCA). However, plaintiff and his wife Carolyn (collectively, the Odoms) also filed a lawsuit against PTLC in federal district court, alleging PTLC's tortious negligence caused Perry Odom's injury. The federal appellate court asked whether under Oklahoma’s dual-capacity doctrine, an employer who was generally immune from tort liability could become liable to its employee as a third-party tortfeasor, if it occupies, in addition to its capacity as an employer, a second capacity that confers obligations independent of those imposed on it as an employer. The Court asked what was the effect of Oklahoma's Administrative Workers' Compensation Act (AWCA) on the dual-capacity doctrine, and whether the AWCA abrogated the dual-capacity doctrine as to an employer's stockholder. The Oklahoma Court found the AWCA abrogated the dual-capacity doctrine with regards to employers. Title 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 § 5(A) did not bar an employee from bringing a cause of action in tort against a stockholder of their employer for independent tortious acts when the stockholder is not acting in the role of employer. View "Odom v. Penske Truck Leasing Co." on Justia Law

by
In 2013, Frank Benedetti, an employee of Schlumberger Technology Corporation, was working on an oil rig near El Reno, Oklahoma, when he slipped on an icy platform and fell more than thirty feet down a stairwell. Benedetti sued Cimarex Energy Company, the owner and operator of the well site, and Cactus Drilling Company, the owner and operator of the oil rig, for negligence. Cimarex moved to dismiss pursuant to 85 O.S. 2011 section 302(H), which provided that "any operator or owner of an oil or gas well . . . shall be deemed to be an intermediate or principal employer" for purposes of extending immunity from civil liability. The district court granted the motion to dismiss, and Benedetti appealed. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. Pursuant to the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision in Strickland v. Stephens Production Co., 2018 OK 6, ___ P.3d ___, the Supreme Court concluded section 302(H) of Title 85 was an impermissible and unconstitutional special law under Art. 5, section 59 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Subsection (H) was severed from the remainder of that provision. View "Benedetti v. Cimarex Energy Co." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff-respondents filed this negligence suit alleging that minor plaintiff, H.R., was struck by a car driven by Defendant Alexandria Maze, after H.R. exited from a school bus operated by Defendant Norman Public Schools. Defendants Lance and Cheryl Maze, the driver's parents, moved to dismiss the claims of infliction of emotional distress against them. The trial court denied their motion but certified its order as immediately appealable. The school also sought dismissal of the claims against it. The trial court granted dismissal of the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against the school but denied dismissal of the remaining claims. The dispositive issue in both appeals centers on whether the bystander plaintiffs, who were not involved in the auto-pedestrian traffic accident but say they witnessed it from the window of their house, can recover against the defendants for infliction of emotional distress. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found Oklahoma law required the dismissal of the emotional distress claims at issue here. Under Oklahoma law, infliction of emotional distress was established when (1) the plaintiff was directly physically involved in the incident, (2) the plaintiff was injured from actually viewing the injury, and (3) a close personal relationship exists between the victim and the plaintiff. The Court found the bystander Plaintiffs were not directly involved in the accident which injured H.R. and their claims for negligent and intentional emotional distress against Driver's Parents had to be dismissed. Further, because Plaintiffs' allegations could accommodate a set of facts which would be actionable in negligence, the Court could not find that the petition did not state a cause of action in negligence against the school. Accordingly, the trial court was reversed as to its rulings on the infliction of emotional distress claims, and affirmed the denial of the dismissal as to the remaining negligence claims against NPS. View "Ridings v. Maze" on Justia Law

by
The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari to address whether defendants-appellees, whose products were used to make an ambulance helicopter, had sufficient minimum contacts with the State of Oklahoma in order to establish personal jurisdiction over them after the helicopter crashed in Oklahoma, killing two Oklahoma residents. This case arose out of a crash in 2013. The pilot, Mark Montgomery (pilot), and his crew, responded to an emergency medical transport call at Integris Baptist Hospital in Oklahoma City, for Watonga, Oklahoma. The crash killed two Oklahoma residents who were onboard the helicopter: the pilot, and the flight nurse, Chris Denning. The onboard flight paramedic, Billy Wynne, survived with severe injuries which resulted in amputation. The crash destroyed the helicopter. Allegedly, the crash was witnessed by dozens of Oklahoma residents. EagleMed, L.L.C. a Delaware incorporated L.L.C. with its principal place of business in Wichita, Kansas, employed the Oklahoma pilot and the crew. EagleMed operated a helicopter ambulance service for the region. The crash was allegedly caused by an air intake defect which allowed ice to accumulate in the air inlet and enter the compressor, causing the engine to flame out and crash. Airbus Helicopters SAS, a French Company, designed and manufactured the accident helicopter in France, and sold it to the appellee, Airbus Helicopters, Inc. (Airbus), a Grand Prairie, Texas, company. The original engine was replaced by Honeywell International, Inc. of Morristown, New Jersey, who designed and manufactured the replacement engine. An Olympia, Washington company, Soloy, L.L.C. provided the engineering and design for installation of the engine. In 2004, Airbus sold the helicopter, an AS350B, to Ballard Aviation, Inc. d/b/a EagleMed. Airbus delivered the helicopter in an unassembled condition to Texas for shipment, but it did not make the arrangements for it to be delivered to Wichita, Kansas. Rather, the Airbus standard practice was to deliver their helicopters to their place of business in Texas, and have the buyers handle any further transportation services. The purchase agreement between EagleMed and Airbus contained a forum selection and choice of law clause regarding any litigation to take place in Texas. The crew’s survivors all sued Airbus, Airbus SAS, Soloy, and Honeywell for wrongful death, negligence, and products liability in Texas. They also filed suit in Oklahoma when the Texas suit was dismissed under forum non conveniens. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held defendants did not have sufficient minimum contacts in order to establish personal jurisdiction over them in Oklahoma. View "Montgomery v. Airbus Helicopters, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Stacy Gaasch, as personal representative for the Estate of Troy Gaasch, filed suit against St. Paul File and Marine Insurance Company, alleging the insurance company failed to timely provide reasonable and necessary medical treatment as ordered by the Workers' Compensation Court. Troy required multiple surgeries over several years due to his work-related injury. Troy was hospitalized due to his work-related injury. He allegedly became malnourished with accompanying weight loss and different physicians recommended a nutritional consult. A nurse case manager recommended monthly a nutritional consult. Troy died during his hospitalization approximately six months after the initial recommendation for a nutritional consult. Prior to his work-related injury, Troy underwent a gastric bypass surgery and allegedly suffered from a malabsorption syndrome secondary to this surgery. A disagreement arose between insurer and Troy concerning whether the insurer was required to pay for a nutritional consult. Insurer claimed Troy's nutritional problems were created prior to his work-related injury and his nutritional state in the hospital was not due to the work-related injury. The company moved for summary judgment which was granted. Plaintiff appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held: (1) Plaintiff's district court action alleging breach of contract also included a request for damages resulting from the death of the workers' compensation claimant; (2) the district court action was based upon alleged delay by a workers' compensation insurer in providing medical care as previously awarded by the Worker's Compensation Court; and (3) the district court action against the workers' compensation insurer was precluded by an exclusive remedy provided by the Workers' Compensation Act. “Plaintiff attempts to go around this procedure we classified as a ‘jurisdictional requirement’ . . .by characterizing the claim as a breach of contract and an action for damages resulting from an alleged wrongful death. The clear public policy expressed in the amended version of Art. 23 sec. 7 requires available workers' compensation remedies for any type of wrongful death claim to be pursued in the Workers' Compensation Court when required by the workers' compensation statutes.” View "Gaasch v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co." on Justia Law