On January 8, 2021, the Supreme Court of Kansas, in Johnson v. US Food Service, upheld the constitutionality of workers compensation statute K.S.A. 44-510e(a)(2)(B), which was amended in 2013 to mandate the use of the 6th Edition of the American Medical Association (AMA) Guides from the 4th Edition, to evaluate impairment rating for injuries occurring on and after January 1, 2015. With this decision, the court reversed a 2018 appellate holding that found the statute deprived workers of their right to a fair remedy and violated the state constitution.
Reasoning that it was possible to interpret the statute in a way that would avoid the constitutional question, the court found that the statute was constitutional because the reference to the AMA Guides 6th Edition only supplants the 4th Edition for injuries after 2015 and does not alter the remaining statutory requirement that an impairment rating be “established by competent medical evidence.” The court concluded that the language requiring use of the AMA Guides 6th Edition does not change the legal standard for determining functional impairment. Rather, the use of the AMA Guides 6th Edition merely reflects an update to the most recent set of guidelines, which serve as a starting point for any medical opinion, but the key fact—percentage of functional impairment—must always be proven by competent medical evidence.
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