This week Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Pat Ballard issued a ruling in the case of Nora Clower vs. CVS Caremark.
The original suit, filed in November 2013, sought to claim workers’ compensation benefits for Ms. Clower after she injured her back at work.
The suit brought into question two provisions of Alabama’s Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act), specifically:
- The cap on weekly compensation for an injured worker ($220/week), and
- The cap on attorneys’ fees (15%).
The case’s ruling, which was delivered by Judge Ballard on Monday, May 8th, 2017, named these provisions unconstitutional.
According to the Alabama non-severability statute, any part of the Act being declared invalid makes the entire thing invalid.
Thus, Alabama’s Workers’ Compensation Act was deemed unconstitutional and struck down.
In his ruling Monday, Judge Ballard stayed his order for 120 days “because of the drastic result that the non-severability statute produces.” This stay would allow the state legislature to address the issue with new legislation.
However, the state legislature is set to adjourn later this month, so there is little time left to replace the now invalidated law.
“Workers’ compensation insurance in Alabama will halt in the absence of workers’ compensation laws,” according to Judge Ballard.
The ruling could still potentially be overturned by the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals or the Alabama Supreme Court. To do so, an appeal would need to be submitted by the defendants, namely CVS Caremark.
President of the National Workers Compensation Defense Network Mike Fish believes that the overturning is quite likely. He says, “I cannot imagine a situation where the Court of Civil Appeals or the Alabama Supreme Court would send us back into the work injury ‘Dark Ages.'”