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OKLAHOMA CITY—The Oklahoma Supreme Court has struck down as unconstitutional part of a workers compensation reform law that prevented chiropractors from serving as independent medical examiners in workers compensation cases.
In Tuesday's ruling, the Oklahoma high court also eliminated a part of the law that changed a standard of proof required in workers comp cases.
The new law became effective Aug. 26 with the adoption of S.B. 878.
The law provided that only licensed medical doctors and licensed doctors of osteopathy can serve as independent medical examiners, who essentially examine claimants to determine issues such as the appropriate need for medical treatment and compensability.
But two chiropractors and the Oklahoma State Chiropractic Independent Physicians Assn. asked the state Supreme Court to declare the law unconstitutional.
They asked the high court to assume “original jurisdiction” rather than first allow a trial court to review their complaint because of the case's public importance and its urgency, court records state.
The Supreme Court found in their favor, ruling that “the legislature, by the exclusion of not only chiropractors, but also podiatrists, dentists and optometrists, has created a suspect special class.
“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. Therefore, the distinction becomes arbitrary and without relation to the subject matter,” the court said.
“We therefore find that the portions of the statute that exclude all physicians other than medical doctors or doctors of osteopathy, including the definition of qualified independent medical examiner, to be unconstitutional,” the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled 6-3.
The three dissenters disagreed with the majority finding that the law excluding chiropractors as qualified independent medical examiners qualifies as a special law that violates the Oklahoma Constitution.
The high court majority also struck from the new law a change to the standard of proof required in cases where an independent medical examiner's opinion must be followed.
The standard required to rebut the doctor's opinion on temporary disability cases and the need for medical treatment had been revised from “preponderance of evidence” to that of “clear and convincing evidence.”
OKLAHOMA CITY—The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled that workers compensation awards for amputations and surgeries can't be included when calculating limits on permanent partial disability benefits.