|Author||Subject: Smothers Case significant|
|Max|| Posted At 15:02:25 05/10/2001
The court's ruling means that injured workers can, in some cases, sue their employers under the current workers' compensation law. The court determined that the "major contributing cause" standard under the current comp law is restrictive, so now workers' compensation is not necessarily the "exclusive remedy" for some workplace accidents.
Here's an example: you are denied a respiratory illness claim because you did not prove the air at your workplace was a "major contributing cause" to your illness. Since workers' compensation is the only remedy route to your claim, you are left without recourse. The court said that you can now take your claim to court to recoup damages from your employer. No longer will you be forced to give up if the workers' compensation system denies you on the basis, and only on the basis, of their restrictive "major contributing cause" standard.
Gene Derfler, as you may guess, didn't like the decision and now he is trying to get Kitzhaber to do another MLAC type of strategy to overturn the decision. Here is a story on it:
SALEM, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that employees have the right in some cases to seek damages in court when compensation claims are denied, a decision that a top lawmaker said could sharply increase workers' compensation costs.
Senate President Gene Derfler, angered by the ruling, said a a special legislative session might be needed later this year to deal with the issue.
The unanimous ruling made a significant exception to what's supposed to be a no-fault insurance system for workers harmed by job-related accidents or disease.
The court focused on provisions in state law generally requiring workers to establish that a job-related condition was a ``major contributing cause'' of their ailment.
The court said the Legislature cannot prevent employees from seeking compensation through the insurance system or in court when a job contributes to illness or injury, even if it's not the major cause.
``The court is legislating again,'' said Derfler, who is considered a legislative authority on workers' compensation. He has been sharply critical of state Supreme Court decisions on several issues in recent years.
Derfler said the ruling could affect up to 40 percent of compensation claims.
He said he had suggested to Gov. John Kitzhaber that a management-labor panel be convened, similar to one that drafted workers' compensation changes in 1990, to suggest legislation.
Derfler said he doubted if the current legislative session can deal with the matter.
``I think we have to sit back and figure out what to do,'' he said.
A lawyers' group claimed the ruling doesn't make a sweeping change.
Jennifer Webber, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association, said she believed the ``workers' compensation system is easily fixable to address this narrow decision. This doesn't upset the apple cart.''
The ruling was based on a state constitutional right that gives every citizen a ``remedy by due course of law for injury done him,'' a provision written by the document's drafters in 1857.
The long-awaited ruling upheld a claim by Terry Smothers of Gresham, who contended he unfairly was left with no recourse when he developed respiratory problems in the early 1990s after inhaling acid-laden mist while working on trucks for Gresham Transfer Inc.
His compensation claim was rejected on grounds that he had a pre-existing asthma problem.
Smothers then sued, but the Multnomah County Circuit Court and the Oregon Court of Appeals rejected the claim because state law says the insurance system was his ``exclusive remedy.''
The Supreme Court overturned those rulings and sent the case back to the trial court for further proceedings. Whether workers are entitled to sue for compensation must be decided on a case-by-case basis, the court said.
If a worker's claim is denied because he or she ``has failed to prove that the work-related incident was the major, rather than merely a contributing cause of the injury, the exclusive remedy provisions'' are unconstitutional, the court said in an opinion by Justice Sue Leeson.
The exclusive remedy requirements ``leave the worker with no process through which to seek redress for injuries,'' Leeson said, while a right to compensation for such injuries existed under common law when the constitution was adopted.
Re: Smothers Case significant (Currently 1 replies)
Posted At 19:28:41 05/10/2001
Where did you get this article? I couldn't find anything in the oregonian. Seems they're ignoring this too like everything else that isn;t pro business
Re: Smothers Case significant (Currently 0 replies)
Posted At 23:23:44 05/10/2001
So it is true that justice will prevail even thou it may take a long time. Maybe some heads will roll if the public discovers those elected to protect them are whores for the insurance industry.
Write those letters. Give 'em hell.
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