United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
HEATON, GHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Bobby Cornelsen filed this suit against various defendants
including defendant Wildcat Minerals, LLC
(“Wildcat”). He alleges that he was injured in
the course of his employment by Wildcat on February 4, 2014,
and that his injuries were caused by Wildcat's failure to
provide a safe work environment and/or Wildcat's
remanufacturing of the machinery on which plaintiff was
status conference on November 7, 2016, the court granted
Wildcat's motion to dismiss the claims against it, based
on application of the exclusive remedy provision of the
Oklahoma Administrative Workers' Compensation Act, 85A
Okla. Stat. § 5 (the “exclusivity
provision”). Plaintiff was granted leave to amend his
complaint to attempt to cure the deficiency, and subsequently
filed a Second Amended Complaint. In this complaint,
plaintiff also seeks a declaration that the exclusivity
provision is a “special law” that violates the
Oklahoma Constitution, art. 5, §§ 46, 59.
has moved to dismiss the claims asserted against it pursuant
to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). It
argues that the exclusivity provision is constitutional and
that the complaint fails to state a claim that avoids the
provision's application. The court concludes that the
second amended complaint does not state a claim that is not
barred by the statute, and declines to exercise jurisdiction
over any claim for which the state's Administrative
Workers' Compensation Act provides the exclusive remedy.
See Stuart v. Colo. Interstate Gas Co., 271 F.3d
1221, 1224-25 (10th Cir. 2001) (noting that refusal to take
jurisdiction over a claim which is barred by state statute is
properly dismissed under Rule 12(b)(1)).
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint
must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face” and “to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570
(2007). The court accepts all well-pleaded factual
allegations of the complaint as true and views them in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party. S.E.C. v.
Shields, 744 F.3d 633, 640 (10th Cir. 2014). While all
that is required is “a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), the complaint still must contain
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face” and “raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 555 (2007).
the exclusivity provision, an employee who sustains injury in
the course of employment must seek recovery through the
state's administrative workers' compensation plan.
This exclusivity does not, however, bar suit if the injury
results from an intentional tort committed by the employer.
The provision limits the term “intentional tort”
to conduct in which the employer has “willful,
deliberate, specific intent . . . to cause [the
employee's] injury.” 85A Okla. Stat. §
5(B)(2). The “intentional tort” exception
expressly excludes conduct in which an employer is only
substantially certain that injury will result.
complaint does not set forth facts sufficient to satisfy the
statute's requirements for an intentional tort. The
second amended complaint includes no factual allegation
supporting the bare assertion that Wildcat “desired to
bring about [p]laintiff's injury” or that its
conduct was willful and intentional. Doc. #27, p. 5. The
complaint alleges that Wildcat was aware of safety regulation
violations and was aware of the risk of injury to “any
persons who would be at the Wildcat [y]ard” or who
would operate the same machinery as plaintiff, but this does
not support an inference that Wildcat had ignored these risks
with the specific intent to injure plaintiff. The
complaint has therefore pleaded no basis that falls outside
the terms of the exclusivity provision, for a claim that
admittedly arose within the scope of plaintiff's duties
seeks to avoid this result by arguing that 85A Okla. Stat.
§ 5 is unconstitutional as a prohibited special law
under Art. 5, § 46 or § 59 of the Oklahoma
Constitution. He relies principally on an unpublished
Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals decision reaching that
result. Wells v. Okla. Roofing & Sheet Metal,
L.L.C., No. 112, 844 (Okla.Civ.App. Apr. 28,
2016). As the parties have noted, that
decision is on appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
question is, of course, one of Oklahoma law and the Oklahoma
Supreme Court's determination of the applicability of
either § 46 or § 59 will be final. However, based
on this court's review of Wells and the
parties' submissions here, the court concludes the
statute is unlikely to be invalidated as a special law.
Oklahoma has long recognized that the legislature can enact a
workers' compensation scheme treating employee workplace
claims against employers differently from claims asserted
against third parties. Mo. Valley Bridge Co. v. State
Indus. Comm'n, 207 P. 562, 564 (Okla. 1922). And
there is no reason to assume that the Oklahoma Constitution
would, in general, prevent the legislature from creating
multiple types of claims based on the nature of a
defendant's knowledge, intent, conduct, or other factors,
or from defining the scope of the state's workers'
compensation program on the same basis. Applying these
principles here, it is difficult to see how the exclusivity
provision results in an impermissible classification.
event, the court concludes for purposes of the present motion
that plaintiff has not shown a basis for avoiding the
presumption of constitutionality that applies to any statute,
see Lee v. Bueno, 381 P.3d 736, 740 (Okla. 2016),
and that 85A Okla. Stat. § 5 provides the applicable
standard here. As the amended complaint does not allege a
factual basis for inferring that plaintiff's employer
deliberately and intentionally sought to injure him,
Wildcat's motion to dismiss [Doc. #34] is GRANTED and the
claim against it will be dismissed.
Prior to the state
legislature's adoption of this standard for
“intentional tort, ” the Oklahoma Supreme Court
interpreted the standard of intent to require
“substantial certainty” that injury would result.