Who are you working for?

Frank Benedetti was employed by Schlumberger Technology Corporation. Pursuant to that employment he worked on an oil well owned and operated by Cimarex Energy Company. On 9 December 2013 he was injured in a work accident. He sued Cimarex in the Canadian County District Court.

Image from here

Cimarex as well operator was considered to be immune from suit. The Oklahoma Workers Compensation Code [85 OS 2011 §302(A) and (H)] relevantly provided that –

The liability prescribed in this act shall be exclusive and in place of all other liability of the employer … at common law … for such injury … to the employee … except … where the employer has failed to secure the payment of compensation for the injured employee.

For the purpose of extending the immunity of this section, any operator or owner of an oil or gas well … shall be deemed to be an … employer for services performed at a drill site or location with respect to injured … workers whose immediate employer was hired by such operator or owner at the time of such injury.

The District Court summarily dismissed Benedetti’s claim. His appeal to the Court of Civil Appeals was dismissed. He appealed to the Supreme Court of Oklahoma.

The Supreme Court upheld his appeal. Following Strickland v Stephens Production Co., 2018 OK 6 it found that paragraph (H) was an unconstitutional “special law” breaching Art. 5 §59 of the Oklahoma Constitution

Laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation throughout the State, and where a general law can be made applicable, no special law shall be enacted.

The case was remanded for further proceedings in the District Court.

Benedetti v Cimarex Energy Co, 2001 OK 21

Ind. School Dist. No. I-89, Okla. Co v Okla. Sec. School Activities Ass’n (2014) H&FLR 2015-7

Independent School District No. I-89 of Oklahoma County, Oklahoma v Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (2014) H&FLR 2015-7

District Court of Oklahoma County (Oklahoma)

11 December 2014

Coram: Jones J

Appearing for the Plaintiff: F. Andrew Fugitt and Anthony T. Childers
Appearing for the Defendant: Mark S. Grossman, Andre B. Caldwell and Meredith W. Wolfe (of Crowe & Dunlevy)

Catchwords: Oklahoma – high school – American football – umpiring – review of decisions – sporting associations – injunction.

Facts: A high school football team operated by the plaintiff took part in a playoff game overseen by the defendant on 28 November 2014. The plaintiff considered that its team had been disadvantaged by a particular umpiring decision and sought a replay of the game, which the defendant refused.  The plaintiff sought an injunction compelling the replaying of the last 64 seconds of the game or (alternatively) the replaying of the entire match.

Held: refusing to grant the injunction, that –

1. To obtain a temporary injunction a plaintiff must show (a) a substantial likelihood of success in the substantive issue; (b) irreparable harm to the plaintiff if the injunction is refused; (c) that the potential injury is not speculative and outweighs the harm of the temporary injunction to the respondent; and (d) that the injunction would not be contrary to the public interest.

Tulsa Order of Police Lodge No. 93 v City of Tulsa, 39 P.3d 152 (2001) and House of Realty v City of Midwest City, 109 P.3d 314 (2004), followed.

2. The necessary harm could not be shown simply by the defendant’s alleged breach of its own policies, particularly where the policies themselves and their application was a matter of the defendant’s discretion.

3. In general, courts should not intervene in matters where the parties have agreed to be bound by and submitted to the governance of activities associations.

4. The court would in any case decline to order the requested relief because there is no means of ensuring that it may be carried out fairly: it would be impossible to replicate entirely the conditions of the disputed match with regard to player fatigue, weather, field conditions, coaching and referee decisions, among other things, and an attempt to do so would invite uncertainty and error. Ultimately this would frustrate athletic pursuits themselves.


The Court’s judgement is available here.

State v Native Wholesale Supply (2014) H&FLR 2014-32

State of Oklahoma ex rel. E. Scott Pruitt v Native Wholesale Supply (2014) H&FLR 2014-32

Supreme Court of Oklahoma

10 June 2014

Coram: Colbert CJ, Reif VCJ, Watt, Winchester, Taylor, Kauger and Gurich JJ.

Appearing for the Plaintiff: E. Clyde Kirk and Ryan R Chaffin (Assistant Attorneys-General)
Appearing for the Defendant: David L. Kearney, Gregory T. Metcalfe and Paula M. Williams (of Gable Gotwals)

Catchwords: Oklahoma – tobacco – health care expenses – contraband cigarettes – disgorgement – settled law of the case – jury trial

Facts: In 1999 and 2004 the Oklahoma legislature enacted two statutes in relation to the sale of tobacco products* (Acts). The effect of the Acts was to require tobacco product manufacturers whose products were sold in Oklahoma to pay money into escrow accounts to cover health care expenses resulting from cigarette smoking. The State’s Attorney-General would publish a directory of cigarette brands that may be sold in Oklahoma and a list of tobacco product manufacturers who had complied with the Acts. The Acts made it unlawful for a person to sell or possess for sale cigarettes which were not listed in the directory or where the manufacturer had not complied with the Acts.

In August 2006 ‘Seneca’ brand cigarettes and their manufacturer (Grand River Enterprises Six Nations Ltd) were removed from the directory. In 2007 and 2008 the defendant, Native Wholesale Supplies (NWS), brought Seneca cigarettes into the State. In May 2008 the Attorney-General commenced proceedings seeking disgorgement and payment to the State of NWS’ gross proceeds of sale of the contraband cigarettes. After an intervening dispute over jurisdiction (State ex rel. Edmonson v Native Wholesale Supply, 2010 OK 58, 237 P.3d 199) (NWS I), the Oklahoma County District Court on 9 May 2013 entered judgment against NWS for $47,767,795.20. NWS appealed.

Held: By Colbert CJ, Reif VCJ, Watt, Winchester, Taylor and Kauger JJ, dismissing the appeal, that –

1. The “settled-law-of-the-case doctrine” forbids parties re-litigating issues which are finally settled by an appellate decision or which a party failed to raise on appeal. Accordingly, the factual conclusions in NWS I were binding on the parties and the District Court.

Smedsrud v Powell, 2002 OK 87, 61 P.3d 891, followed.

2. The defendant was not entitled to a jury trial on the unsettled factual issues because the Acts did not provide for a jury trial andf neither the Federal nor State constitutions required one to be held. The right to a jury trial recognised in the Oklahoma Constitution referred to the right as it existed at the time of the Constitution’s adoption.

A.E. v State, 1987 OK 76, 743 P.2d 1041; Maryland National Insurance Co v District Court of Oklahoma County, 1969 OK 73, 455 P.2d 690; Keeter v State, 1921 OK 197, 198 P. 866, followed

A dissenting judgment was entered by Gurich J.


The Court’s judgment is available here.
* The “Escrow Statute“, 37 O.S. Supp 1999 §§600.21-600.23 and the Master Settlement Agreement Complementary Act, 68 O.S. Supp. 2004 §§360.1 et eq.