Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Supreme Court Nixes Parts Of Workers Comp Law

From The Tulsa World ~ The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down two portions of a highly touted workers compensation reform measure passed last session.

Senate Bill 878 removed chiropractors as independent medical examiners in workers compensation cases. The new law, which became effective Aug. 26, limited independent medical examiners to medical doctors and doctors of osteopathy.

The suit alleged that chiropractors in the past had been allowed to serve as independent medical examiners and their reports were used to support claims for permanent partial disability.

Traditionally, independent medical examiners meant someone appointed by the court to examine a patient for future treatment or determine the degree of disability. The new law seemed to include them as advocates as well, giving evidence for one side or the other.

"We find the legislature, by the exclusion of not only chiropractors, but also podiatrists, dentists, and optometrists, have created a suspect special class," the opinion said. "We also find that there is neither a distinctive characteristic upon which this different treatment is reasonably founded nor one which furnishes a practical and real basis for discrimination between the groups within the classes."

The portion of the law that excludes all physicians other than medical doctors or doctors of osteopathy as independent medical examiners is unconstitutional, the opinion said.

The measure also attempted to change the standard of review to clear and convincing evidence from preponderance of the evidence, the opinion said.

The Supreme Court struck that portion of the law as well, saying it violated the separation of powers clause of the Oklahoma Constitution.

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