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2005 workers' compensation law argued before MO Supreme Court

By Marshall Griffin, KWMU

Jefferson City, MO – The future of Missouri's workers' compensation law is in the hands of the State Supreme Court.

A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the 2005 law was heard Thursday in Jefferson City.

The plaintiffs include labor unions and a group representing retirees. Attorney Alan Mandel represents the Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans, the lead plaintiff.

He says the law passed two years ago bars injured employees from going to civil court to seek compensation.

"That violates the Missouri open courts provision of our state constitution, which allows and guarantees injured individuals the right to a remedy," Mandel said.

Attorneys for the state and for Associated Industries of Missouri argued that the 2005 law fixed a workers' comp system that had become slanted against employers.

Attorney Marc Ellinger, representing Associated Industries, says the current law has cut back the number of frivolous claims.

"The courts had expanded the coverage, so that people (who) were using drugs or alcohol, folks that were not injured primarily on the job, were still able to get workers compensation coverage...and the effect of that was employers were having to pay ever-increasing insurance premiums," Ellinger said.

A lower court had originally tossed out the challenge to the new workers' comp law.

The Missouri Supreme Court will make a final ruling at a later date.

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