Oklahoma State Capitol

by Shawn Ashley, eCapitol

The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the nomination of the Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims first gubernatorially appointed administrator Tuesday, along with the reappointing of a sitting judge on the court.

Dustin Davison told the committee that the administrator of the Court of Existing Claims was a newly created position that serves at the pleasure of the governor. The position was made subject to gubernatorial appointment in 2019 when lawmakers passed and Gov. Kevin Stitt signed HB2367.

Davison, of Edmond, told the committee he has worked for the court for the past 15 years, starting in the records division, then moving to docketing clerk before becoming assistant director of the court.

“I am looking forward to this opportunity to help injured workers and close out old cases,” said Davison.

Davison’s nomination received a unanimous do pass recommendation from the committee. It was carried by Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond.

Pugh also carried the reappointment of Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims Judge Margaret Bomhoff, also of Edmond. Bomhoff said she had served on the court for the past eight years. Prior to that, Bomhoff said she worked as a workers’ compensation attorney for 25 years.

The cases still before the court, Bomhoff said, are older cases and involve people who areisabled. She said her experience as an attorney and judge will help deal appropriately with those cases.

Bomhoff’s nomination also advanced unanimously.

The nominations now move to the full Senate for its consideration.

HB2367, by Rep. Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City and Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, modifies numerous components of the Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act.

  • It modifies definitions, including compensable injury, continuing medical maintenance, course and scope of employment, cumulative trauma, disability, employee, employer, permanent disability, and permanent partial disability.
  • It specifies that every employer subject to provisions therein must provide benefits for employment-related injury without regard to fault.
  • It clarifies guidelines for cases occurring in other jurisdictions, and specifying that claimant with case in multiple jurisdictions cannot receive duplicate benefits.
  • It removes a stipulation that the owner or operator of an oil and gas operation must be considered the principal employer when the immediate employer was also hired by the owner or operator.
  • It specifies that a portion of criminal fines for false representation be deposited into the Trust Fund.
  • It shifts exclusive jurisdiction of discrimination or retaliation cases from Workers’ Compensation Commission to district courts and that the remedies of this act are exclusive remedies.
  • It allows first-responders to claim mental injury or illness as a compensable injury without evidence of a physical, employment-related injury causing the mental injury or illness.
  • It allows for notice of workers’ compensation claim to health care provider to be delivered by copy, email, or other electronic means, in addition to mail.
  • It allows for any party in hearing to employ an interpreter or court reporter.
  • It allows the Commission to meet privately to discuss matters related to operations without taking action.
  • It establishes a procedure of filing Affidavit of Exempt Status including content on form, repercussions for providing false information on form, and filing fee.
  • It shifts rulemaking responsibility for securing compensation from the Insurance Department to the Workers’ Compensation Commission.
  • It creates a timeline that within one year from date of injury to filing, last payment of compensation or wages, or last medical appointment date, claim must be filed or else dismissed with prejudice.
  • It increases the timeline for filing of controverted claim or additional benefits from six months to one year.
  • It allows for the notice of claims and judgments to employer by means of copy, email, or other electronic means, in addition to mail.
  • It requires an employer to pay for prescription drugs during appeals process period.
  • It shifts collector of fees for collection costs of disputed charges from medical provider to attorney.
  • It states a procedure for hearing to change award compensation before Supreme Court, including requiring written undertakings.
  • It exempts incarcerated individuals from receiving temporary total disability benefits.
  • It removes a timeline for the Commission to implement electronic data interchange system.
  • It removes a requirement of the Commission to give notice to an injured employee of available services such as ombudsman program. It directs the Commission to provide information on website.
  • It requires that agreements between employer and employee regarding injury and disability be filed as a memorandum of agreement with the Commission.
  • It removes a requirement of Advisory Council on Workers’ Compensation to review Oklahoma Treatment Guidelines and report findings to the Commission.
  • It specifies that Tax Commission must firstly fulfill $5 million contribution to Multiple Injury Trust Fund.
  • It removes previous fiscal year requirements.
  • It lowers contribution to Administrative Fund from $4 million to $2.5 million for fiscal year 2020.
  • It requires that contributions to Administrative Fund for subsequent years to be $3 million so long as Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims is authorized by the Legislature.
  • It requires the Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims to pay the expenses associated with maintaining current and past records, so long as the Legislature appropriates funding to the Court separate from Commission funding.
  • It repeals guidelines regarding annual reports by the Attorney General to the Workers’ Compensation Commission for a fraud investigation unit, by the Workers’ Compensation Commission to the Legislature and Governor for evaluation of administration of act.
  • It repeals a stipulation that contractor must be liable for a subcontractor’s employees.
  • It repeals Oklahoma Employee Injury Benefit Act Workers’ Compensation Commission Revolving Fund.
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