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Certain workers' compensation appeals still can start at Oklahoma Supreme Court

Madalene Witterholt, a director with Crowe & Dunlevy in the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice Group, discusses recent ruling regarding workers’ compensation cases.
Oklahoman Published: May 8, 2014

Q&A with Madalene Witterholt

Certain workers’ comp appeals still can start at Supreme Court

Q: I understand a recent court ruling impacts workers’ compensation in Oklahoma.

boldA: In Carlock v. Workers’ Compensation Commission, the Oklahoma Supreme Court confirmed more than 90 years of jurisprudence in holding that the law in effect at the time of an injury is the law that governs the case. The new Workers’ Compensation Act seems to say that all injuries, whether they occurred before or after Feb. 1, would have to be appealed to the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission before they could be appealed to the Supreme Court. This would have eliminated the longstanding right of appeal to a panel of Workers’ Compensation judges sitting en banc. The Supreme Court held this new appeal procedure unconstitutional; any pre-Feb. 1 injury cases would not be subject to the jurisdiction of the Workers’ Compensation Commission and could continue to be presented for appeal before the traditional panel of three Workers’ Compensation judges or directly to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Q: How will this impact Oklahoma employers and employees?

A: In evaluating workers’ compensations cases, both employees and employers need to know what law applies to know what to expect as a case proceeds. The Supreme Court is clear that injuries occurring prior to Feb. 1 will not be subject to the new Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Act. From the employer’s perspective, this means obligations and defenses under the old law will continue. For employees, it allows them to know how their case will proceed and what benefits will be available. For all parties, the ability to appeal to the Workers’ Compensation Court sitting en banc (as a panel of three judges) can continue as a more expeditious and cost-effective review of trial court decisions.

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by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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