PRUITT v. MID-CONTINENT PIPE LINE COMPANY

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PRUITT v. MID-CONTINENT PIPE LINE COMPANY
1961 OK 96
361 P.2d 494
Case Number: 39093
Decided: 04/25/1961
Supreme Court of Oklahoma

EARL J. PRUITT, PETITIONER,
v.
MID-CONTINENT PIPE LINE COMPANY, STANDARD INSURANCE COMPANY AND THE STATE INDUSTRIAL COURT, RESPONDENTS.

Petition for review from the State Industrial Court.

Syllabus by the Court

¶0 1. An order of the State Industrial Court allowing compensation during the continuance of temporary total disability, but not to exceed 300 weeks, does not by its terms operate as an adjudication of employee's right to accumulative benefits for any determinable period of time, and the provisions of 85 O.S.1951 §§ 41 and 42 may not be applied thereto to the extent of effecting, on employer's default, a commutation to a lump sum of any unaccrued future installments thereunder so as to render the same enforceable prior to their maturity.
2. Within the meaning and contemplation of 85 O.S.1951 §§ 41 and 42, an order of the State Industrial Court allowing compensation benefits to an injured workman during the continuance of his temporary total disability, but not to exceed 300 weeks, is enforceable as a 'final award' against the employer only to the extent of all unpaid portions which have accrued under the terms thereof.
3. On employer's (or insurance carrier's) failure for ten days to pay, as directed, any portion of an unappealed order allowing compensation during the continuance of temporary total disability, but not to exceed 300 weeks, the claimant is entitled by force of statute to secure on due notice to the opposing party, an order of the State Industrial Court declaring the employer in default to the extent of all unpaid installments accrued under the terms thereof and determining the aggregate amount of the unsatisfied matured obligation which shall thenceforth be treated pro tanto as transmuted by operation of law to an award in gross; if resort to the machinery and process applicable to courts shall appear necessary for the enforcement of such award, the trial tribunal may authorize that a certified copy thereof be filed in the office of a designated county court clerk for entry on the district court judgment docket.
4. Record examined and held: The State Industrial Court held correctly that unaccrued installments under an order allowing compensation during the continuance of employee's temporary total disability were not enforceable prior to their maturity on employer's default in payments.

Original proceeding by Earl J. Pruitt, claimant, opposed by Mid-Continent Pipe Line Company, employer, and Standard Insurance Company, its insurance carrier, to review an order of the State Industrial Court denying his application to authorize that a certified copy of an order allowing compensation during the continuance of temporary total disability be filed in the office of the County Court clerk and entered on the judgment docket of the District Court. Order sustained.

Dick Bell, Seminole, for petitioner.

Fenton, Fenton, Smith & McCaleb, Oklahoma City, and Mac Q. Williamson, Atty. Gen., for respondents.

WELCH, Justice.

¶1 On December 11, 1959, claimant obtained an order of the State Industrial Court allowing weekly compensation at the rate of $35 during the continuance of his temporary total disability, but not to exceed 300 weeks, or until otherwise directed. On January 19, 1960, claimant sought, by written application, an order of the trial tribunal finding the employer in default, declaring the entire "award for 300 weeks due and payable" and authorizing the filing of a certified copy thereof in the office of the Court Clerk of Seminole County for entry upon the judgment docket of the district court. After hearing, on due notice to the parties, the trial judge found that the employer had not "wilfully and intentionally" disobeyed the terms of the order sought to be enforced. Employer was directed to make a lump-sum payment of all installments accrued thereunder and to continue the weekly benefits in accordance with the terms of the order entered on December 11th. The application for certification of the award was denied.

¶2 The facts are not in dispute. Counsel for employer fell ill at the time the order became final (January 1, 1960) and, while absent from his office for some ten days following January 2, 1960, he neglected to make arrangements for compliance. On January 21, 1960, employer commenced payment of current weekly benefits and forwarded a check for the total amount of accrued compensation. A separate check was sent for the expenses of claimant's travel to keep an appointment arranged for him with a designated physician. All these checks were refused by claimant and returned to the employer. Claimant failed to present himself for the requested medical examination.

¶3 Claimant asserts the trial tribunal erred as a matter of law in declining to authorize that the delinquent order be certified for filing and entry on the district court judgment docket. Under the plain provisions of

¶4 The question presented for our consideration is governed by the enforcement provisions contained in

"* * * Failure for ten days to pay any final award or any portion thereof as ordered, shall immediately entitle the beneficiary to an order finding the respondent and/or insurance carrier to be in default and all unpaid portions, including future periodical installments unpaid, shall thereupon become due and may be immediately enforced as provided by Section 13366 of this Chapter."

"If payment of compensation or an installment thereof due under the terms of an award, except in case of appeals from an award, be not made within ten days after the same is due by the employer or insurance carrier liable therefor, the Commission may order a certified copy of the award to be filed in the office of the Court Clerk of any County, which award whether accumulative or lump sum shall be entered on the Judgment Docket of the District Court, and shall have the same force and be subject to the same law as judgments of the District Court. * * *"

¶5 The quoted enactments, we have held, effect on employer's default an automatic acceleration in maturity of future periodical installments adjudged against the employer in a final accumulative award of the State Industrial Court. By force of law such unaccrued installments are commuted to a lump sum so that the entire unsatisfied obligation becomes due at once. These provisions facilitate expeditious enforcement of delinquent accumulative awards and enable the beneficiary-workman to compel satisfaction of the aggregate unpaid compensation adjudged in his favor. He can thereby avoid the cumbersome method of resorting to successive proceedings for the collection of individual installments as the same accrue and become due. Excise Board of Grady County v. Griggs, 192 Okl. 636,

¶6 The scope and effect of the automatic acceleration clause has been considered by this court in so far as its application was asserted to a final accumulative award such as adjudges employer's liability for permanent disability sustained by an injured workman. Excise Board of Grady County v. Griggs, supra; Rucks-Brandt Const. Corporation v. Silver, supra; Fowler v. Brooks, 193 Okl. 580,

¶7 In the present proceeding we are called upon to determine whether future periodical installments, which are claimed under an order for continuing temporary disability may, on employer's default, be treated as commuted by force of the statute to a lump sum and enforced under the provision of

¶8 An order allowing benefits during the continuance of employee's healing period, as authorized by

¶9 An order allowing benefits during the continuance of the healing period is neither accumulative in its nature, nor does it constitute a final award. It must be payable periodically in accordance with the method of payment of employee's wages at the time of his injury, and, unlike a final award for permanent disability, it may not be made in any other manner.

¶10 Since the right to unmatured portions of the order is wholly contingent on the continued state of temporary total disability at the time of their accrual, we conclude that under a provisional order of this nature there can be no claim to any "future * * * installments unpaid" within the meaning and contemplation of the automatic acceleration clause in

¶11 The decisions of this court regarding enforcement of delinquent matured installments under a continuing order for child support furnish a close parallel to the rule announced in this opinion. In those cases we have held that such order may be treated as a final judgment only to the extent of accrued and unpaid portions upon which execution can issue. Clester v. Heidt's Estate, Okl.,

¶12 Our holding does not leave a workman without means by which to enforce continuing compliance with an order such as one involved in this proceeding. The remedy invoked by claimant is only cumulative.

¶13 The trial judge was without authority to treat unaccrued installments claimed under the provisional order as commuted by operation of law to a lump sum upon employer's default. The application for certification of the "entire award for 300 weeks" was properly denied.

¶14 Claimant does not complain of error in declining to authorize certification of all matured installments unpaid, and we find none. Their tender was renewed during the proceedings and counsel assured the trial judge that employer intended to make immediate payment thereof.

¶15 Order determining accrued unpaid installments and denying certification for entry on the district court judgment docket sustained.

¶16 WILLIAMS, C.J., BLACKBIRD, V.C.J., and HALLEY, JOHNSON, JACKSON, IRWIN and BERRY, JJ., concur.