Injured Workers Wait for Supreme Court Decision
By Gerri L. Elder
Injured workers in Missouri are waiting for the state
Supreme Court to make a decision. They’ve
been waiting for over a year.
Just after Thanksgiving 2007, the Missouri Supreme Court heard
arguments on the constitutionality of a law making it more difficult for
injured workers to collect workers'
compensation benefits. Since that time,
injured workers, their personal
injury lawyers and their employers have been anxiously awaiting the seven
According to an Associated Press analysis of 182 opinions
issued by the court in 2007 and 2008, this decision has already taken four
times as long to decide as the average case. However, the Supreme Court will not give any indication as to why this
particular case is taking so long to decide.
How it works: the court hears legal arguments and then the
justices convene privately to discuss the case and assign a justice to write an
opinion. During this process, the
assigned author is not revealed and no updates are provided on the
The Associated Press
reported that in a written response to questions about the delay in the
decision on the workers' compensation case, Beth Riggert, an attorney who
serves as a spokesperson for the court, said that the court strives to decide
cases as quickly as possible.
However, Riggert noted that cases that come before the
Supreme Court involve complex legal issues. She said the court would take as much time as it finds necessary to consider
all legal issues raised in order to reach a decision.
The workers' compensation system in Missouri was established
in 1926 to resolve on-the-job injury
claims through administrative proceedings rather than the courts. The system was intended to provide aid more
quickly to injured workers while sparing employers the expense and
uncertainties of trials.
The case the court is currently deciding revolves around a
2005 law requiring workers to show a "specific event during a single work
shift" caused the injury in order to receive compensation for an
accident. The law excluded injuries
caused by "a series of events" from qualifying as a workers'
Prior to the 2005 law, a person's employment only needed to
be a substantial factor in an injury in order for the worker to file a workers'
compensation claim. The law tightened
the standard and required the work-related accident to be the "prevailing
factor" in an injury.
Personal injury lawyers in Missouri have been speculating
for the past year about the outcome of the case. Some injured workers in Missouri have been
waiting for the Supreme Court decision to help them decide whether to pursue
their workers' compensation cases or file civil
lawsuits. Many lives hang in limbo
as the court carefully considers the validity of the 2005 workers’ compensation