Larson’s Spotlight on Recent Workers’ Comp Cases: Oklahoma Key Workers’ Comp Reforms Ruled Unconstitutional

Larson’s Spotlight on Recent Workers’ Comp Cases: Oklahoma Key Workers’ Comp Reforms Ruled Unconstitutional

Larson's Spotlight on Medical Examiners, Independent Contractor, Substantial Deviation, Methadone and Death Benefits. Larson's surveys the latest case developments that you need to know about. Thomas A. Robinson, the staff writer for Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, has compiled the list below.

OK: Supreme Court Strikes Down Statute Excluding Chiropractors and Others From "Independent Medical Examiner" Status

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma, on December 20, 2011, declared unconstitutional two important components of the state legislature's workers' compensation law "reform" package, striking down the statute's provisions limiting "independent medical examiner" status to licensed medical doctors and licensed doctors of osteopathy-thereby disqualifying chiropractors, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists and others medical professionals outside those ranks.  The majority of the court also declared invalid the portions of the law that changed the standard of review in determining whether the Workers' Compensation Court was required to follow the opinion of the IME.  The statute's provisions that elevated the standard from a "preponderance of the evidence" to the standard of "clear and convincing evidence" were struck by the court.

The provisions in question were part of Senate Bill 878, which became effective August 26, 2011.  Among the plaintiffs was a chiropractor who had been previously certified as an "independent medical examiner" ("IME") by the Workers' Compensation Court and who would no longer have been able to act as an IME under the new statute.  The court found that the legislature, by the exclusion not only of chiropractors, but also podiatrists, dentists, and optometrists, had created a suspect special class, that there was neither a distinctive characteristic upon which this different treatment could be reasonably founded nor one which furnished a practical and real basis for discrimination between the groups within the classes. Therefore, the distinction was arbitrary and without relation to the subject matter, indicated the court.

The dissenting judges disagreed that the statutes in question constituted impermissible special laws and indicated that the provisions did not violate the state constitution's separation of powers clause.

FREE VERSION: Access the case on lexisONE free case law. Click on tab for Free Case Law. Click on the radio button for Search by Citation. Enter this citation: 2011 Okla. LEXIS 112. Then click on the red button Search for Free. Note: If you haven't registered for free at lexisONE, you will be prompted to do so in order to access the free case law.

FULLY FEATURED VERSION: Lexis.com subscribers can read the fully featured case here. See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 128.05.

KY: Exercise Rider is Independent Contractor In Spite of His Work Being Part of Purported Employer's Regular Business

Illustrating that it isn't enough for the worker's duties to be a part of the purported employer's regular business, the Court of Appeals affirmed a denial of benefits to an exercise rider injured when a horse he was going to exercise pulled back, sat, and rolled onto her side and onto the rider's leg.  It was undisputed that the rider's work was a regular part of the purported employer's business and that the "employer" provided most of the instrumentalities and tools for the work.  Acknowledging further that an earlier case, Ratliff v. Redmon, 396 S.W.2d 320 (Ky. 1965) had cited Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 60.02, which favored the "relative nature of the work" test, the court indicated that the control exerted by the purported employer was minimal and the rider was engaged in, and licensed for, a distinct occupation or business and displayed "significant professional skills."

FREE VERSION: Access the case on lexisONE free case law. Click on tab for Free Case Law. Click on the radio button for Search by Citation. Enter this citation: 2011 Ky. App. LEXIS 249. Then click on the red button Search for Free. Note: If you haven't registered for free at lexisONE, you will be prompted to do so in order to access the free case law.

FULLY FEATURED VERSION: Lexis.com subscribers can read the fully featured case here. See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 60.02.

MO: Deer Hunting Excursion Was Substantial Deviation From Business-Related Trip; No Compensation Awarded for Injuries

A Missouri appellate court recently affirmed a denial of benefits to an employee seriously injured in a vehicle accident while he was on a deer hunting excursion that he had arranged in connection with a sales call on behalf of the employer, finding that there had been too substantial a deviation and that the excursion did not substantially benefit the employer.  The case illustrates that while compensation can be awarded for a "dual purpose" trip, if the deviation is wholly severable, no compensation is usually awarded.

FREE VERSION: Access the case on lexisONE free case law. Click on tab for Free Case Law. Click on the radio button for Search by Citation. Enter this citation: 2011 Mo. App. LEXIS 1672. Then click on the red button Search for Free. Note: If you haven't registered for free at lexisONE, you will be prompted to do so in order to access the free case law.

FULLY FEATURED VERSION: Lexis.com subscribers can read the fully featured case here. See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 17.03.

NC: Worker's Methadone-Related Death Found Compensable

Finding that substantial evidence supported the Industrial Commission's finding that there was a causal relationship between an injured worker's five-year use of methadone, via a valid prescription, and his death, a North Carolina appellate court recently affirmed an award of death benefits to the worker's widow.  The court agreed that the widow had submitted sufficient evidence that the death was contributed to by a build-up of methadone in the worker's system and that the worker took the methadone "in substantial compliance" with his prescription.  The employer's contention that he had died solely due to non-work related liver disease was untenable, indicated the court.

FREE VERSION: Access the case on lexisONE free case law. Click on tab for Free Case Law. Click on the radio button for Search by Citation. Enter this citation: 2011 N.C. App. LEXIS 2593. Then click on the red button Search for Free. Note: If you haven't registered for free at lexisONE, you will be prompted to do so in order to access the free case law.

FULLY FEATURED VERSION: Lexis.com subscribers can read the fully featured case here. See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 38.06.

Source: Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, the nation's leading authority on workers' compensation law

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