March 24th, 2021
workers compensation
ALABAMA SUPREME COURT EXTENDS ORDERS PERTAINING TO WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CASES AND REMOTE TESTIMONY

On March 18, 2020, pursuant to §§ 12-2-30(b)(8) and 25-5-12, Ala. Code 1975, Chief Justice Tom Parker issued “Administrative Order Concerning Workers’ Compensation Cases During the Period of Suspension of In-Person Proceedings, authorizing circuit judges to conduct workers’ compensation settlement hearings telephonically or by videoconferencing.  This Order also authorized the use of the Alabama Department of Labor Ombudsman Program for approval of workers’ compensation settlements as well, and specifically allowed the dismissal of a workers’ compensation claim that was pending in court if settled with written approval of an ombudsman.

This Order was extended several times by Administrative Orders Nos. 5, 6, 7, and 8, issued on April 2, 2020, April 30, 2020, May 13, 2020, and August 14, respectively.  On December 21, 2020, the Alabama Supreme Court issued another extension by Administrative Order No. 9, authorizing telephonic and videoconferencing in workers’ compensation settlement hearings, and approval of settlements by a state ombudsman, until April 30, 2021.

Considering the increase in vaccinations and decreased numbers of Covid-19 related hospitalizations statewide, we would not expect the Supreme Court to extend this Order indefinitely; however, the Court may issue another short three-month extension, or authorize each Presiding Circuit Judge discretion to issue similar orders accordingly. 

In the meantime, however, parties in workers’ compensation settlements will continue to enjoy the ability to have settlements approved without delay.

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