Opinion:Johnson v. Midwest City Del City Public Schools, 2021 OK 29
Subject matter:Workers’ Compensation
Date Decided:May 25, 2021
Trial Court:Workers’ Compensation Commission
Route to this Court:Writ of Certiorari to the Court of Civil Appeals (Division II)
Facts:Appellant, a school cafeteria worker, was injured in a fall in the school’s parking lot while returning to the cafeteria from a smoke break. The school’s policies prohibited smoking on school grounds and Appellant had walked to a public street to smoke a cigarette during her break. She sought workers’ compensation benefits related to her injury and her employer denied the claim, arguing that Appellant was not in the course and scope of employment because her injuries did not occur “inside the employer’s facility” within the meaning of the version of 85A O.S.Supp.2013 § 2(13)(d) in effect at the time of Appellant’s injuries. The administrative law judge rejected the employer’s argument and awarded benefits to Appellant, but the Workers’ Compensation Court reversed the decision. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the decision of the Commission. 
Standard of Review:Established by 85A O.S. 2014 § 78(c)
Analysis:The facts of the case are uncontroverted. Appellant was on an authorized work break inside the employer’s facility (parking lot) and tripped on loose concrete on school premises, resulting in injury. Appellant was required to leave school facility grounds by walking into an adjacent public street to smoke a cigarette because of the school’s policy prohibiting tobacco inside of the educational facility grounds. “Thus, even the school treated the parking lot as part of facility grounds.” The ALJ’s findings and conclusions that the school parking lot was “inside the employer’s facility” for purposes of 85A O.S.Supp.2013 § 2(13(c)-(d) are supported by the clear weight of the evidence are not contrary to law, and the Commission exceeded its statutory authority and acted contrary to law in reversing the ALJ’s award of temporary total disability to the Appellant. 
Outcome:Court of Civil Appeals opinion vacated; Order of the Commission reversed and the matter remanded for proceedings consistent with the Court’s opinion. 
Vote:5-3. Opinion by Edmonson, J. Concur: Darby, C.J., Kauger, Combs, and Gurich, JJ. Dissent: Kane, V.C.J. (by separate writing), Winchester, J. and Rowe, J. (by separate writing). 
Other: The statute at issue in this case was amended in 2019 (after the Appellant’s injuries) to make compensable injuries sustained on an authorized work break those that occur not only inside the employer’s facility, but also “in an area owned by or exclusively controlled by the employer” as compensable. Also, the Oklahoma Supreme Court originally retained the matter on their own motion, then, after briefing was complete, changed course and assigned the case to the Court of Civil Appeals. V.C.J. Kane in his dissent asserts that the majority applies the wrong standard of review and conducts a re-weighing of the evidence, which is not authorized by statute. V.C.J. Kane states that while the majority claims to be reviewing whether or not the Commission acted in excess of its statutory authority, the majority is actually using that hook to bootstrap itself into a disagreement with the Commission’s determinations on issues of law and fact, which is an improper attempt to circumvent the standard of review established by the Legislature when it reformed the workers’ compensation system in Oklahoma.