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Employer, insurer may have to provide new home for amputee

accessible home

The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday that the state’s Workers’ Compensation Court erred when it issued a decision that was unclear on what an employer and its insurer must do to provide a disabled worker an accessible home.

Allen Michael Lewis was injured while working for MBC Construction Co. and ultimately had to have his left leg amputated. Litigation arose from Mr. Lewis' request that MBC Construction Co. and its insurer build accessible housing for him, as documented in Allen Michael Lewis v. MBC Construction Co., Inc., and Carolina Casualty Ins. Co., filed in Lincoln.

The compensation court rejected Mr. Lewis' proposal for a $400,000, four-bedroom, three-garage accessible house, but found certain accessibility features “reasonable, necessary, and required due to the nature of his injury.” It ordered the employer to modify an existing home “or potentially build a unit” to meet Mr. Lewis' accessibility requirements.

Both parties appealed. The employer argued the compensation court erred when it directed it to purchase property, and Mr. Lewis argued that the court erred when it found his proposal for new construction “unreasonable and unnecessary,” according to documents.

The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that a new home may be necessary, but that the earlier ruling was unclear on who would have to pay all the costs associated with it, including insurance and taxes.

“The order is confusing and the undertakings of each party are unclear,” the state Supreme Court wrote. On remand, it called on the compensation court to “enter an order based on the existing record, clarifying which accessible alternative housing options should be pursued and in which order, and it should clarify in findings (the employer’s) economic obligations under the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act with respect to the housing ultimately obtained.”

In concurring, two judges said the legislature should address “important public policy questions about the compensability of accessible housing for injured workers.”