The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision to overturn an exemption in the state’s staff compensation regulation that protected the oil and natural gas industry was welcomed by a number of stakeholders.
As part of a 2015 employees compensation overhaul in Oklahoma, a law that prevented oil and natural gas companies from being sued if a worker was killed or injured on the job was enacted, but the state Supreme Court docket dominated on Jan. 23 that the exemption was unconstitutional.
“Everyone expects that if you are an employee and you might be damage at work you may get staff compensation Coal benefits … however Oklahoma’s legislature enacted a selected exclusion in a statute that applied to an operator or owner of an oil and natural gas effectively … the effect of that was those oil and well operators or producers have the advantage of the exclusive treatment of employees comp despite the fact that these weren’t their workers, mentioned Don Lawless, Grand Rapids, Michigan-based accomplice at Barnes & Thornburg L.L.P.
In 2014, David Chambers, an employee of RDT Trucking Inc., was working at a Crescent, Oklahoma-primarily based oil effectively site picking up wastewater. On the oil properly, Mr. Chambers labored on or round a “heater treater machine. Whereas working, Mr. Chambers suffered extreme burns that eventually led to his dying, in accordance with court docket paperwork in Strickland v. Stephens Production Co.
Glory Strickland, Mr. Chambers daughter, filed a wrongful demise lawsuit against the homeowners and operators of the oil effectively site, Stephens Manufacturing Co., for negligence, failure to inspect the well and failure to warn of its dangers, in line with court docket paperwork.
Stephens Production filed a movement to dismiss, citing protection under the Oklahoma Administrative Staff Compensation Act, which states that “any operator or proprietor of an oil or gasoline nicely . . Petroleum Equipment Supplier . shall be deemed to be an intermediate or principal employer This exempts oil and natural gas corporations from being sued when workers are injured or killed.
Stephens Production Co., which couldn’t be reached for remark, was not Mr. Chambers direct employer.
The Oklahoma Supreme Courtroom denied the movement to dismiss and located the regulation unconstitutional.
“The defendant, an owner and operator of an oil properly, argued that oil/fuel companies should be treated in a different way than other industries as a result of they needed ‘certainty,’ mentioned Helene R. Hechtkopf, New York-based mostly accomplice at Hoguet Newman Regal & Kenney L.L.P.
The court discovered no valid purpose for the distinction provided to oil and natural gas companies.
“The Supreme Courtroom of Oklahoma … said it is a particular law as a result of you’re deeming one industry different from any other within the state, stated Mr. Lawless. “It went on to say there may be nothing actually special in regards to the oil and gas production trade compared to a number of other employers on this state who have numerous contractors, similar complexity, similar kind of liability exposure. This statute violates that provision of our constitution. This really unique software of the exclusive remedy of staff comp to one business in Oklahoma was discovered to be an aberration that wasn’t supported by their constitution. /p>
Luke Abel, the legal professional for David Chamber’s household with the Abel Law Agency in Oklahoma City, applauded the court for “standing up for injured Oklahomans. /p>
“The legislation at subject deemed the proprietor and operator to be an employer of anyone who’s injured engaged on a properly, and therefore limited injured workers to claims in the workers compensation system, Mr. Abel said in an emailed statement. “I am not aware of another legislation which supplies particular remedy to only one specific business.