Workers Comp equal protection argument rejected in black lung cases: JAMEISON V. EAGLE ROD & GUN CLUB, INC. (COA 11/9/2007)

JAMEISON V. EAGLE ROD & GUN CLUB, INC.
WORKERS COMPENSATION:  EQUAL PROTECTION ARGUMENT REJECTED ON PNEUMOCONIOSIS CLAIMS 
2007-CA-000072
PUBLISHED: AFFIRMING AND REMANDING
PANEL:  ACREE PRESIDING; NICKELL, GUIDUGLI CONCUR
COUNTY: OWEN
DATE RENDERED: 11/09/2007

Glenn Lutz petitions for the review of an opinion of the Workers’ Compensation Board (Board), entered affirming the decision of an administrative law judge (ALJ) dismissing Lutz’s workers’ compensation claim.  His sole argument is that Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 342.316, which deals with pneumoconiosis disease, is unconstitutional because it violates his right to equal protection under the law. COA disagreed and thus affirmed. 

Lutz argues that KRS 342.316 is discriminatory against coal miners complaining of pneumoconiosis, as opposed to other workers subjected to more immediate and traumatic injuries, because they are treated differently.  The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires that persons similarly situated must be treated alike. See Weiand v. Bd. of Trustees of Kentucky Retirement Systems, 25 S.W.3d 88, 92 (Ky. 2000). Lutz contends that coal miners with pneumoconiosis are similarly situated with miners who have suffered more traditional-type injuries. 

In short, COA disagreed that miners with pneumoconiosis and miners with traditional-type injuries are similarly situated. Therefore, in light of the differences in the two groups, they need not be treated the same. Thus,  there is no equal protection violation in this regard.

STUMBO, JUDGE, DISSENTS AND FILES SEPARATE OPINION. "Respectfully, I must dissent from the opinion of the majority. I would hold that the imposition of the clear and convincing standard of proof is a clear violation of the Equal Protection Clause of both the United States and Kentucky constitutions…."

Digested by Michael Stevens

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