Permanent partial disability percentage, 520-week limitations entitled to same exclusions
Evans & Associates Utility Services v. Espinosa, No. 108017 (Okla. 10/04/11).
Ruling: The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that a laborer's permanent partial disability award was improperly calculated and sent the case back to determine the portion of previous awards that were attributed to surgeries to exclude the amount from the 520-week limitation.
What it means: In Oklahoma, the sum of all permanent partial disability awards is limited to a total of 100 percent or 520 weeks for any individual, excluding awards against the multiple injury trust funds or for amputations and surgeries.
Summary: A manual laborer for a utility service suffered several work-related injuries resulting in workers' compensation awards. He alleged a cumulative trauma injury to his shoulders, arms, and hands. He was awarded PPD benefits for 409 weeks. An award of 95.9 weeks would have met the statutory maximum total award of 520 weeks. A statute also provides that all PPD awards except awards against the multiple injury trust fund and awards for amputations and surgeries should not exceed 100 percent PPD for any individual. The service appealed.The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that the laborer's award was improperly calculated. The court sent the case back for a determination of the proper amount.
The court examined the conflicting statutes and said the logical interpretation was to apply the exceptions to both provisions limiting PPD benefits to 100 percent and 520 weeks. The worker would not have had previous amputations or surgeries if not for the previous work-related injuries, the court explained. The court said there was no rational reason why the legislature would intend to treat a worker or employer differently when an injured worker exceeds 520 weeks but not 100 percent when the limitations of employer awards are aimed at capping an employer's liability.
The court said the portion of previous awards attributed to surgeries should be excluded from the service's cumulative totals. The record was unclear as to the exact portion attributable to previous surgeries.
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October 31, 2011
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