Morris v. Owensboro Grain, 2012-SC-000435-WC (Ky. 2013) (Designated to be published):  Under KRS 342.650(4) the General Assembly intended to exempt any worker from Kentucky’s Workers’ Compensation Act when his injury is covered by a federal workers’ compensation scheme, unless the employer provides voluntary coverage.

Morris was injured in 2008 and the injury was reported under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), a federal statutory scheme providing compensation for injured maritime employees.   He later filed a Kentucky state workers’ compensation claim.  Owensboro Grain denied the claim and the ALJ found that the LHWCA was a rule of liability for injury or death provided by the laws of the United States under KRS 342.650(4) and that since Morris’s injury fell under the LHWCA, Kentucky had no subject matter jurisdiction over the claim.  She also found Owensboro Grain provide no voluntary coverage to Morris under KRS Chapter 342. Accordingly, the ALJ dismissed the claim.

The Supreme Court affirmed the ALJ’s denial finding that the General Assembly intended to exempt any worker from Kentucky’s Workers’ Compensation Act when his injury is covered by a federal workers’ compensation scheme, unless the employer provides voluntary coverage. See KRS 342.660. Since Morris was covered under the LHWCA, he was exempt from Kentucky’s workers’ compensation laws unless Owensboro Grain provided him voluntary coverage.

The Court further held that even though Owensboro Grain maintained state workers’ compensation coverage, the record was absent a copy of the policy, and there was no indication Owensboro Grain provided the notice required by KRS 342.660(2) to the Commissioner of the Department of Workers’ Claims to show it intended to cover all of its employees under Kentucky’s state workers’ compensation laws regardless of whether they were covered by a federal rule of liability. Merely maintaining workers’ compensation insurance does not, according to the Court, create a presumption of coverage, which would shift the burden of proof to the employer to show a lack of coverage for employees exempted under KRS 342.650.

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