Missouri Governor Mulling Bill to Keep Sickened Workers from Suing

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Workers’ Compensation on Wednesday, March 14, 2012

As we discussed in our March 2 blog post, the Missouri Legislature was considering a bill that would stop workers who develop a debilitating illness on the job from seeking compensation from their employers in civil court. That bill has now been passed by both chambers and is sitting on Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk. Republicans and business groups have said the bill will make it more profitable for companies to remain in the state, but critics say the bill overreaches and could leave those suffering from potentially deadly illnesses like cancer from receiving proper compensation.

The bill, which passed in the state House on March 7, would include chronic illnesses contracted at work among the types of workplace injuries covered by workers’ compensation in Missouri. A 2005 change in the law removed illnesses such as those which result from exposure to toxic substances from the workers’ compensation list. That allowed sickened workers to take their employers to court to seek compensation for medical bills, lost wages and so on.

Employers in the state, fearing that workers could receive more compensation in court, pushed to re-include chronic diseases such as mesothelioma, a type of cancer that can develop after exposure to asbestos, in the state workers’ compensation system. That would restrict how much compensation sickened workers could receive due to state caps. Critics say that workers with lethal illnesses should not have their right to sue their employer taken away.

A spokesman for Gov. Nixon said that the governor has not decided whether to sign or veto the bill. The governor has indicated that he is unsure about the wisdom of including life-threatening illnesses in the bill.

Source: CBS News, “Workers’ compensation bill sent to Mo. governor,” March 7, 2012

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