PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A Watertown man has gained some ground in his attempt at taking some of the secrecy out of South Dakota’s workers’ compensation system.

Jason Pieper wants the employee included in all written and oral communications between a medical services provider and any medical provider.

The state Workers’ Compensation Council on Thursday recommended that the Legislature consider his suggestion.

Arguing against it were insurance lobbyists Doug Abraham of Pierre and Justin Smith of Sioux Falls, and Deb Mortenson of Pierre for the Associated General Contractors.

Representative Sue Peterson, a Sioux Falls Republican, spoke in favor of Pieper’s proposal.

Two other state lawmakers — Representative Mike Stevens, a Yankton Republican, and Representative Hugh Bartels, a Watertown Republican — sent a letter expressing support.

Pieper’s wife, Michelle, is a kindergarten teacher in Watertown. She was injured and nearly died after a student struck her with a chair. She received a $500,000 payment from the Watertown school district and the Associated School Boards of South Dakota workers’ compensation fund after a contentious legal dispute.

Pieper read a letter to the council from one of the family’s attorneys, Nancy Turbak Berry of Watertown, a former state senator.

“With the above statutory change, potentially misleading information and misunderstandings can be caught and corrected in real-time. By contrast, discovery motions and subpoenas are available as potential remedies only after a contested case has been initiated by a claimant filing a formal petition with the DLR (state Department of Labor and Regulation),” the letter said in part.

Representative Nancy York, a Watertown Republican, sponsored somewhat similar legislation for Pieper in 2021. Her bill was killed after its first committee hearing.