Alabama Workers' Compensation Law Deemed Unconstitutional

Date: May 30, 2017

On May 8, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Pat Ballard struck down Alabama’s Workers Compensation Act. The ruling found two provisions—the $220 per week cap on compensation and the 15 percent cap on attorney’s fees—unconstitutional, which nullifies the entire statute.

Initially, Judge Ballard planned to stay his order for 120 days so the Legislature could address the issue, but that left lawmakers little time to respond. So, a week later, he issued another order that stays his ruling indefinitely until legislators can act on it.

Current law specifies that workers who are injured on the job may receive $220 per week for disability compensation once their condition is stabilized. However, lawyers for the plaintiff in the case involved in the ruling—Nora Clower v. CVS Caremark Corp.—argued that living costs and wages are far beyond that amount now as compared to 1987, when the law was enacted.

Ballard’s second order noted that his earlier findings against the law remain and further orders could come if the court finds the Legislature is unwilling or unable to take action on the issue. Until then, he would continue administering workers’ comp cases according to the current law.

In any case, the ruling is expected to be appealed.

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