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Oklahoma Attorneys Seek to Overturn Workers Compensation Cut

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma City attorneys have filed a lawsuit that seeks to overturn a legislative cut in the amount of money injured workers receive while recovering.

Attorneys Bob Burke and Emily Biscone and her father, Joseph Biscone II, filed the suit Wednesday in Oklahoma Supreme Court. It argues that the maximum temporary disability benefit set by the Legislature is arbitrary and that it places economic burden on injured workers without any legitimate state interest.

Burke said the cut is a denial of due process and that it also violates the state constitutional guarantee of an adequate remedy for an injury. He said Oklahoma's weekly maximum rate is the second lowest in the nation.

Lawmakers reduced the amount workers receive in temporary disability benefits as part of a reform package in 2013 that aimed to cut costs.

Burke said more than 40 provisions of the reform package have been found unconstitutional, inoperable or invalid. He said 25 provisions are being challenged in the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Jonathan Buxton, the State Chamber of Oklahoma's senior vice president of government affairs, said the chamber, which was instrumental in crafting the 2013 law, supported an increase in benefits in the most recent legislative session. But the bill didn't pass.

"We recognize that savings have occurred because of the fundamental shift in how the work comp system is administered," Buxton said. "Some of those savings should go toward increasing the benefits to the injured workers."

Terri Watkins, a spokeswoman for Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter declined to comment, saying the office hasn't been served with the lawsuit.