Dissenting Judge on the Okla. Court of Civil Appeals Claims Misinterpretation of Law

Article excerpt

In a ruling issued Friday, one judge on the Court of Civil Appeals criticized the majority for applying what he called a seriously flawed analysis to extend benefits for soft tissue injuries, in conflict with the legislative intent behind a 2005 amendment to workers' compensation law.

In Bed Bath & Beyond, Inc. and Fidelity Guaranty Insurance Company vs. Rebecca Ann Bonat and the Workers' Compensation Court, the majority of judges on the Court of Civil Appeals agreed with the ruling of the Workers' Compensation Court and a three-judge panel granting Bonat up to 156 weeks of temporary total disability compensation for a soft-tissue back injury.

The Workers' Compensation Court had permitted Bonat to introduce evidence from a physician of her choosing that contradicted the report issued by the examining physician who had been appointed by the court. The court rejected the employer's argument that since the examining physician expressed no specific opinion on whether Bonat's employment caused her injury, Bonat could not prove her injury was compensable.

The Workers' Compensation Court had looked to the Court of Civil Appeals' ruling in Gee v. All 4 Kids, Inc., which identified a problem with an amendment to the law passed in 2005. Lawmakers changed Title 85 section 22(3)(d) to limit TTD compensation to eight weeks, but had failed to make the same change in section 22(2)(c), which allows an injured employee to receive up to 300 weeks of TTD compensation. The discrepancy effectively nullified the eight-week limit legislators had intended to impose, the court ruled.

Following the ruling in Gee, the Court of Civil Appeals upheld the lower court's ruling providing Bonat up to 156 weeks of disability benefits, or if good cause can be proven, up to 300 weeks of TTD compensation.

In his dissent, Vice-Chief Judge Bay Mitchell explained why he disagreed with the majority ruling in this and in similar previous cases. …