FOR REVIEW OF A DECISION OF THE WORKERS' COMPENSATION
BOARD ACTION NOS. WC-15-99349 AND WC-14-78055
FOR APPELLANT: Alan S. Rubin Louisville, Kentucky.
FOR APPELLEE COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY: Andy Beshear Attorney
General of Kentucky, James R. Carpenter Assistant Attorney
General, Frankfort, Kentucky.
FOR APPELLEE, AMERICAN PRINTING HOUSE FOR THE BLIND: Andie
Brent Camden Louisville, Kentucky.
BEFORE: CLAYTON, J. LAMBERT, AND THOMPSON, JUDGES.
OPINION REVERSING AND REMANDING
LAMBERT, J., JUDGE
Overstreet has petitioned this Court for review of the
February 17, 2017, decision of the Workers' Compensation
Board (the Board) affirming the November 15, 2016, order of
the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) decision that
Overstreet's permanent partial disability benefits
terminate when he reaches normal old-age Social Security
retirement age pursuant to Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS)
342.730(4). We reverse and remand.
facts are not in dispute: Overstreet suffered separate
work-related injuries to his knee (from a fall) and shoulder
(from lifting a heavy object) in June and December 2014,
respectively. He underwent surgeries and filed to receive
benefits to compensate him for his partial disability. The
parties settled the amount of the claims, and Overstreet
reserved for review the issue of the constitutionality of the
statute which cuts short the duration of those benefits. Both
the ALJ and the Board ruled against Overstreet because the
Kentucky Supreme Court had addressed this issue adversely to
Overstreet's argument in McDowell v. Jackson Energy
RECC, 84 S.W.3d 71 (Ky. 2002), and the ALJ and the Board
were without jurisdiction to address or decide constitutional
issues. See Commonwealth v. DLX, Inc., 42 S.W.3d 624
(Ky. 2001) (citing Goodwin v. City of Louisville,
309 Ky. 11, 215 S.W.2d 557 (1948)).
in Parker v. Webster Cty. Coal, LLC (Dotiki Mine),
No. 2014-SC-000526-WC, 2017 WL 1536470 (Ky. Apr. 27, 2017)
(Finality November 2, 2017), the Kentucky Supreme Court
reversed its holding in McDowell, supra,
KRS 342.730(4) states in pertinent part that:
All income benefits payable pursuant to this chapter shall
terminate as of the date upon which the employee qualifies
for normal old-age Social Security retirement benefits under
the United States Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. secs. 301 to
1397f, or two (2) years after the employee's injury or
last exposure, whichever last occurs.
. . . .
At the outset, we note that this Court previously determined
that KRS 342.730(4) as it presently exists is constitutional.
See McDowell v. Jackson Energy RECC, 84 S.W.3d 71
(Ky. 2002); and Keith v. Hopple Plastics, 178 S.W.3d
463 (Ky. 2005), as corrected (Dec. 13, 2005). We also are
cognizant of the strong presumption of constitutionality
afforded to legislative acts. Id. at 468. However,
having reviewed our prior opinions, we now determine that
they were incorrectly decided regarding the issue of equal
protection. In doing so, we are:
as always, mindful of the value of precedent and the doctrine
of stare decisis. The doctrine of stare decisis "is the
means by which we ensure that the law will not merely change
erratically, but will develop in a principled and
intelligible fashion." Changing the "ebb and flow
of settled law" is not something we take lightly, and we
do so only after careful consideration. While stare decisis
"permits society to presume that bedrock principles are
founded in the law rather than in the proclivities of
individuals, " it does not necessitate that this Court
"unquestioningly follow prior decisions" ...