Alabama Worker's Compensation Act ruled unconstitutional by circuit judge

A Jefferson County judge's ruling has struck down Alabama's Worker Compensation Act.

On May 8th, A Jefferson County judge's ruling struck down the Alabama Worker's Compensation Act. Circuit Judge Pat Ballard found that two provisions of the act were unconstitutional: a $220 cap on weekly Permanent Partial Disability and a 15 percent cap on attorney fees.

The Worker's Compensation Act classified injured workers into two groups based on entitlement to disability benefits: (a) those who are entitled to indexed benefits - Temporary Total Disability Benefits (TTD) and permanent total disability benefits versus (b) those who are not entitled to indexed benefits- those entitled to Permanent Partial Disability (PPD). Indexed benefits are those that change with Alabama's average weekly wage.

Nora Clower challenged the act in her November lawsuit against CVS Caremark, saying she suffered from a back injury while working and was entitled to PPD workers' compensation benefits. The $220 per week that Clower was receiving for PPD was a figure that had not been adjusted in three decades. $220 per week is below the minimum wage and poverty line. Clower says she earned about $335 per week while employed at CVS for less than a year.

Judge Ballard also ruled that the 15 percent cap on attorney fees is not a function of the legislative branch but presided over by the judiciary branch.

The judge sided with Clower, but his order puts a 120-day stay into effect. The 120-day stay allows the legislature time to make corrections to the act that ensure proper payment of benefits to employees injured on the job.

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