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Oklahoma Workers' Comp Commission issues first ruling, has 'historic day'

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In its first ruling, the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Commission awarded benefits to a nurse who was injured in a car accident.

The Workers' Compensation Commission was created when the state moved from a court-based adjudication system to an administrative process as part of a law that took effect Feb. 1. The law also allows certain Oklahoma employers to opt out of the state's workers comp system.

In a 2-1 decision Friday, the Commission upheld an administrative law judge's June decision to award workers comp benefits to Tommy Ray True, a nurse employed by the Robison Medical Resource Group in Oklahoma, the Commission confirmed in an email.

Mr. True was injured in a car accident on March 8 on his way home from work in Grove, Oklahoma, according to a report published on tulsaworld.com. He was supposed to work in Claremore, Oklahoma, that day, but his employer asked him to switch locations and paid for his mileage, the report states.

Robison Medical Resource Group and its insurer CastlePoint National Insurance Co. argued that, because Mr. True was injured during his commute, he shouldn't be entitled to workers comp benefits under the “going and coming” rule.

However, experts have found that the going and coming rule often doesn't apply when workers take on unusual duties or don't report to work at their usual location or time. This is referred to this as the “special mission” exception.

It's not clear if the special mission exception is what led two of the three commissioners to vote in favor of awarding workers comp benefits to Mr. True.

“Friday was a historic day for the (Oklahoma) Workers' Compensation Commission since the first six appeals cases were heard,” Rick Farmer, executive director of the Commission, said in a statement. “The commissioners worked hard to prepare in advance for the oral arguments with a thorough study of each case file. It is good to see the new, administrative workers compensation system moving forward under the guidance of our three highly experienced commissioners.”