B. Michael Korte of The Korte Law Firm, LLC was interviewed recently by workcompcentral.com, a website devoted to providing nationwide coverage of workers’ compensation education, courses, news and information, about the Missouri Court of Appeals work comp decision in Kolar v. First Student, which was handed down on September 22, 2015.
Kolar involved a workers’ comp appeal by an employee who claimed injuries to both legs. The claimant was awarded workman’s compensation for his injuries, and the administrative law judge allowed an additional amount as a multiplicity, or “loading” factor, based on the effect of the combined injuries. The judge’s award was upheld by the Missouri labor and industrial relations commission, and the commission’s award was, in turn, affirmed by the Eastern District of the court of appeals.
Korte explains, “The concept of a workers’ compensation loading factor is that while an injured worker might be able to compensate by over-using the leg or arm opposite the injured extremity, when both appendages are disabled, the victim’s ability to compensate is even more compromised. So, if one doctor found a 20% disability of one of Mr. Kolar’s legs, and a second doctor found a 20% disability of the other leg, but a third doctor looked at both legs and found a 50% disability, the multiplicity factor, or load, would be that extra 10% caused by the combined nature of the disability.”
According to Korte, the significance of Kolar is that some Missouri workers’ compensation judges had no longer been willing to consider or allow additional compensation for loading factors since the 2005 amendments to The Workers’ Compensation Law, mandating strict construction of its provisions. Some work comp ALJs believed that, since The Law makes no mention of multiplicity factors, strict construction of The Law prohibits them from allowing load compensation.
In Kolar, the court of appeals agreed with the labor commission and the ALJ that just the opposite was true. As pointed out in the workcompcentral story, since” . . . Missouri case law permitted the discretionary use of a ‘multiplicity factor’ before the 2005 amendment of the act, and the Legislature did not mandate any change with respect to this practice, the court . . . had to presume lawmakers intended to allow ‘multiplicity factors’ to remain a part of the calculation of comp awards.”
As Korte explained in the article, Missouri workers’ comp attorneys are, ” ‘. . . all going to be keeping copies of this opinion in our briefcases. . .’ Korte said the factor generally produces a 10% to 15% increase in an award, which is ‘. . . not an insignificant amount of money for our clients, . . .”.