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A recent court case in Kentucky that retroactively limits workers compensation benefits caught the attention of the National Council on Compensation Insurance, which issued a news release about the case Friday.
The Supreme Court of Kentucky in late August ruled in Holcim v. Swinford that the amendments the state made to its workers compensation statutes apply retroactively.
In 2018, the state amended statute KRS 342.730(4), which limits workers compensation income benefits to age 70 or four years after the employee’s injury or last exposure, whichever occurs later. However, the statute was silent as to whether this change applied only going forward or on current claims.
In Holcim, 75-year-old plaintiff James Swinford was injured when his bulldozer fell down an embankment. He was awarded permanent partial disability for a 425-week period. His employer argued, however, that the statute change in 2018 should apply to Mr. Swinford.
The court held that income benefits for workers compensation claims that are not fully and finally adjudicated, are in the appellate process, or for which time to file an appeal has not lapsed as of the effective date of the 2018 amendments, must be based on the durations set forth in the amended statute.
Boca Raton, Florida-based NCCI also noted that the state’s high court cited the recent history of the amended statute to address its 2017 decision in Parker v. Webster County Coal LLC (Parker). In Parker, the court found that the previous version of KRS 342.730(4) — specifically the termination of income benefits when injured older workers qualify for standard, older-age Social Security retirement benefits — was unconstitutional.
Legislation to update Kentucky’s workers compensation system is now in the works one year after a similar measure failed and after more than two decades of little reform.