Local man going to Pierre to fight Senate Bill 145

Published: Feb. 8, 2018 at 1:27 AM CST
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Senate Bill 145 looks to take the courts and juries out of worker compensation bad faith suits against insurance companies.

In South Dakota, if a person feels an insurer or employer was not treating them fairly and acting in bad faith, they have a right to sue them for a civil action, according to David Barari, Attorney with Goodsell Quinn, LLP.

Under this new bill, a person can not sue a company in court for a bad faith case. Instead, the responsibility will fall solely on the Department of Labor and Regulation, which already administers workers' compensation claims.

The bill sets a maximum penalty of $30,000 owed to the injured worker and potential recovery of attorney costs.

Risk Administration Services is behind this bill, and insured a Rapid City man who is suing them for bad faith.

Jake Mordhorst was 20-years-old in 2011 while working as a delivery man for a Rapid City furniture company when he was injured.

"I was unloading a recliner sofa for a delivery and I go to turn around and all of the sudden I am unconscious and on the ground."

A 275 lb sofa fell on him, and he sustained neck and back injuries. He filed a workers’ compensation claim through a company managed by Risk Administration Services. His treatments were being paid for until an out of state doctor from the insurance company examined him.

Court documents indicate the doctor told him it was an 18 day sprain, and any pain he still has was not from the accident. His claim was then denied.

According to more legal documents, in 2014, Mordhorst's original doctor wrote a letter to Mordhort's attorney saying,

"I believe that the furniture falling off the truck, hitting Mr.

Mordhorst in the head, neck and upper back region is the major contributing

cause of his injury. He has a thoracic disc herniation that has caused continuing

ongoing pain, limitations in his function and abilities."

After a lengthy court process, the Department of Labor ruled against RAS and ordered it to resume payment for Jake's medical treatment.

Jake argues if people are unable to sue in court, there will be more cases like his.

"What they are trying to do is wrong and there should be a punishment if you are trying to manipulate the system and that is what they are doing right now," said Mordhorst.

While RAS did not return calls for comments, a lobbyist in favor of the bill says changes need to be made.

“It’s an effort to stabilize work compensation rates for our employers across South Dakota and bring some regulatory stability to the work comp. market,” said Drew Duncan, Lobbyist for the Senate Bill 145.