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Oklahoma: Supreme Court Says Non-Dependent Parents May Sue Employer in Tort

October 18, 2020 (1 min read)

Finding a person's common law rights could be limited, but not eliminated, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma held a provision in the state's Workers' Compensation Act [12 O.S. 2011 §§1053A] that allowed death benefits only to a spouse, child, or legal guardian--if the guardian was dependent on the employee-- and which, therefore, barred the claim of a non-dependent parent of an adult, unmarried, and childless employee who sustained fatal injuries in a work-related incident, was unconstitutional. Accordingly, the court reversed a trial court's decision granting the employer summary judgment on the basis that the parents' wrongful death action was barred by exclusivity. The high court acknowledged that a wrongful death action was a creature of statute and that it was derivative of the rights that the deceased might have had had he survived. It said, however, that prior to the overhaul of the state's Workers' Compensation Law in 2014, a parent would have been able to recover. It was constitutionally impermissible, therefore, for her right to be abrogated.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is co-author of Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law (LexisNexis).

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance.

See Whipple v. Phillips & Sons Trucking, 2020 OK 75, 2020 Okla. LEXIS 81 (Sept. 21, 2020)

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 100.05.

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

For a more detailed discussion of the case, see

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