OKLAHOMA CITY —— Opponents of Oklahoma's new workers compensation system have argued it will cause the state to have two workers compensation systems for decades.

An Oklahoma Supreme Court decision handed down Thursday seems to support that argument.

In its first decision on the operational aspects of the law that went into effect Feb. 1, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that cases begun under the old system — now called the Court of Existing Claims, or CEC — must continue under that system.

The law creating the new system, called the Oklahoma Workers Compensation Commission, sunsets the Court of Existing Claims in 2020.

Many workers compensation lawyers said that will be impossible. The CEC has about 100,000 active cases, some of which are likely to remain open for decades.

Those would be mostly, if not entirely, cases involving partial or total permanent disabilities.

"This is what I expect will be two years of constitutional challenges to the new system," said Bob Burke, the Oklahoma City attorney who represented the plaintiffs in the case, Carlock v. Old Glory Insurance.

The appeal to the Supreme Court actually involved three cases considered together. Burke represented all three petitioners.

The Workers Compensation Commission has delayed action on more than 100 appeals, pending the Supreme Court decision. Most of those appeals were also filed with the CEC, Burke said.

"They filed with both just to make sure," Burke said.

Burke says he has identified more than 50 potential constitutional questions raised by the workers comp law.

Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365

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