Missouri Business Headlines

Supreme Court ruling opens door to increased workers’ compensation liability on Missouri employers

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JEFFERSON CITY — Employees can now receive workers’ compensation benefits years after some injury claims are settled as a result of a Dec. 8 ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court. The decision in Greer v. Sysco Foods exposes Missouri employers to significantly increased workers’ compensation liability.

“We believe the Supreme Court is wrong in its decision to affirm the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission’s overreach in this case,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry president and CEO. “We will be taking this issue to the Missouri Legislature to address in the upcoming session.”

The Missouri Chamber Legal Foundation had weighed in on the case with an amicus brief in support of the employer’s lawsuit.

The Greer case involves a foot and ankle injury sustained in a 2006 forklift accident. The worker was awarded temporary total disability benefits as he was treated for his injury. Once doctors determined the injury had improved as much as possible, the temporary benefits ended and the worker was awarded continuing permanent disability pay. Three years later, the employee opted to receive additional medical care, and the employee petitioned to amend his award. The state’s Labor and Industrial Relations Commission chose to award additional temporary total disability payments to the worker after doctors had determined that he had reached the point of maximum medical improvement.

“This ruling should send shivers down the spines of Missouri employers. Temporary disability payments are capped at 400 weeks for extreme cases and the Supreme Court has given a roadmap for claimants and trial attorneys to maximize those awards – even after a worker has recovered the best he or she can,” said Mehan.

The Supreme Court’s ruling tips the balance against Missouri employers in cases involving temporary disability.

“Businesses have long worked through the state’s existing system to ensure a fair resolution is reached. The Greer v. Sysco Food Services case could make that resolution a thing of the past and fundamentally alter the concept of temporary disability.  We will urge the Missouri Legislature to clarify the law to keep temporary disability payments as they should be—temporary.”

The case also brings to light the need for legislative reform in how expert witnesses are used in court. The Supreme Court relied on the worker’s family doctor for evidence that he had not reached full recovery.

“A family doctor is not a specialist and should not have been allowed to shape the decision in this case,” Mehan said.

The Missouri Chamber Legal Foundation is an affiliate of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry is the largest business association in Missouri. Together, with the Missouri Chamber Federation, the Missouri Chamber represents more than 50,000 employers.

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