Claimant sought permanent total disability benefits from the Multiple Injury Trust Fund. The Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims held that the claimant's combined injuries rendered the claimant permanently totally disabled and awarded benefits. The Multiple Injury Trust Fund appealed. On appeal, the Court of Civil Appeals reversed, finding claimant ineligible to claim benefits against the Multiple Injury Trust Fund as the claimant was not a "physically impaired person" at the time of the claimant's second on-the-job injury. The dispositive issue presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s review was whether claimant met the statutory definition of a "physically impaired person" at the time of the claimant's second on-the-job injury for purposes of determining eligibility for Multiple Injury Trust Fund benefits. As a corollary, the Court considered whether a duly-executed settlement agreement (memorialized on a form prescribed by the Workers' Compensation Court) constituted an adjudication of the claimant's disabilities. The Court answered both questions in the affirmative. View "Multiple Injury Trust Fund v. Garrett" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law, Oklahoma Supreme Court, Personal Injury, Public Benefits
The focus of this appeal centered on the validity of HB 2630; 2014 Okla. Sess. Laws c. 375 (effective November 1, 2014). HB 2630 created the Retirement Freedom Act (74 O.S. Supp. 2014, sec. 935.1 et seq.), with the stated purpose as creating a new defined contribution system within the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) for persons who initially became a member of OPERS on or after November 1, 2015 (this included most state employees hired on or after this date). Plaintiffs-appellants filed a Petition for Declaratory and Supplemental Relief challenging the validity of HB 2630, claiming HB 2630 was void because it was passed by the Legislature in violation of the Oklahoma Pension Legislation Actuarial Analysis Act (OPLAA). Both parties filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted defendants-appellees' motion for summary judgment and the appellants appealed. Agreeing with the trial court that the OPLAA had not been violated, the Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in defendants' favor. View "Stevens v. Fox" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law, Oklahoma Supreme Court, Public Benefits
Petitioners-Appellants Donald and Paula Thompson appealed a district court's decision that affirmed the Board of the Public Employees Retirement System's ruling to forfeit Mr. Thompson's retirement benefits earned in his state retirement account. The district court determined that Mr. Thompson's state retirement benefits had to be forfeited after he was convicted of felonies that violated his oath of office as a district court judge. The court determined that Mrs. Thompson did not have standing in the administrative proceedings and was not a proper party therein. On appeal to the Supreme Court, Mr. Thompson alleged the Board violated the Oklahoma Administrative Procedures Act when it forced him to forfeit his retirement benefits without proper notice. In addition, he argued he did not receive an individual proceeding to provide him an opportunity to proffer evidence and present witnesses pursuant to the Act. Furthermore, Mr. Thompson alleged that the strict construction of the applicable forfeiture statute requires that it apply only to the last oath of office he took. According to this logic, Mr. Thompson argued he should have only been forced to forfeit the benefits he would have earned from his last term in office. Upon review, the Supreme Court found none of Mr. Thompson's arguments persuasive, and affirmed the district court's decision. View "Thompson v. Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System" on Justia Law
Petitioner Ruben Espinosa sought permanent partial disability benefits for injuries to his hands, arms, and shoulders. The Workers' Compensation Court awarded benefits, but a three-judge en banc panel reduced the award to account for Petitioner's previously awarded benefits for injuries to other parts of his body. The Court of Civil Appeals vacated the panel, determining that both the trial court and the panel misapplied the applicable statute. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve a conflict between two Court of Civil Appeals' opinions with differing interpretations of the limitations provided in the applicable statute. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that when the Workers' Compensation Court awards compensation for an accidental personal injury or occupational disease, pursuant to 85 O.S. 2001 Sec. 22(7), the sum of all permanent partial disability awards is limited to a total of 100% or 520 weeks (10 years) for any individual, but awards against the Multiple Injury Trust Funds, or awards for amputations and surgeries are excluded from both limitations.