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A House committee on Tuesday recommended passage of a change to state workers' compensation law dealing with third-party liability.

House Bill 1955 says the injured or deceased party is entitled to no less than half of a financial settlement or judgment from a third party when the case also involves the beneficiary's employer or the employer's workers' compensation carrier. Current law sets the injured or deceased party's minimum share in such cases at a third.

HB1955 also would add self-insured entities to the pecking order -- with a "first absolute lien" -- of collecting two-thirds of a judgment against the third party. The employer or its carrier is already covered under current law.

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

HB1955 replaces HB1650, filed March 4 by Rep. Jack Ladyman, R-Jonesboro. Ladyman's original bill sought to add the language for the self-insured entities while keeping the share for the injured or deceased at one-third.

With that version facing opposition in the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee, Ladyman filed the almost-identical HB1955 late last week. The committee approved the new bill on a 11-7 roll call vote after passing a motion to cut off debate and not take public comment.

The state Workers' Compensation Commission is neutral on the bill, David Greenbaum, its chief executive officer, said last week.

-- Stephen Steed

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