by | Apr 12, 2024

Yesterday the Nebraska Unicameral gave final approval of a legislative bill which will protect employers and insurers from claims for significant benefits that were never intended to exist. Drafted by Dallas Jones and Eric Sutton for Nebraskans for Workers’ Compensation Equity and Fairness (NWCEF), LB1017 legislatively reverses the holding of the 2023 Nebraska Supreme Court decision, Espinoza v. Job Source USA, that allowed employees with injuries to two or more parts of the same extremity in one accident, to qualify for permanent disability based on the employee’s loss of earning capacity, rather than the Schedule of Benefits. That holding has already been used by attorneys for employees to recover exponentially greater permanent benefits than the statute in question was intended to provide.

The saga that ended last night, began in 2007. At that time, Dallas Jones, one of the founding members of NWCEF, played a key role in negotiating an agreement with labor unions and trial lawyers, which led to a permanent, dramatic reduction in the amount employers and insurers must pay hospitals for inpatient care provided to injured employees. Labor unions and trial lawyers agreed to support the overhaul, which was estimated to save employers and insurers $29 million each year, in exchange for the agreement by NWCEF and business interests, to support a proposal by labor and the trial lawyers to increase benefits for employees who injured two or more extremities in one accident. The statutory language effectuating that increase was applied as intended, until, when the Supreme Court interpreted it to allow an employee with injuries to two or more parts of the same extremity in one accident to qualify for permanent disability based on the employee’s loss of earning capacity. In that case, Dallas and Eric attempted to persuade the Supreme Court to interpret the statute consistent with the agreement reached in 2007, by submitting an amicus brief and arguing in the Supreme Court, on behalf of NWCEF and several employers and business associations. After the Supreme Court disagreed, Dallas and Eric drafted LB1017 for NWCEF and helped it educate senators about the original agreement, convincing most senators of the need to restore the original agreement. When LB1017 becomes effective, only employees who have injured two or more parts of different extremities in one accident may qualify for permanent benefits based on their loss of earning capacity, as intended in 2007.

BEWT takes pride in our long history of providing not only excellent representation to protect our clients' interests in workers’ compensation disputes but also the long and unmatched history of our lawyers volunteering their expertise and time to ensure our clients’ interests are protected in the legislative and rule-making processes. Congratulations Dallas and Eric for a job well done!

 For questions about LB1017 and how this may affect your claims, reach out to Dallas or Eric or call 402-475-1075.