State Senate Committee Debates Workers’ Compensation Bill

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Workers’ Compensation on Thursday, January 19, 2012

As we discussed in our Jan. 10 blog post, a pair of proposed bills that would affect how workers in Missouri are compensated for their on-the-job injuries failed to pass the state Legislature at the end of the 2011 session. With the 2012 session underway, politicians have taken up the bills again, partly due to the urging of pro-business groups that claim that the current system prevents employers from expanding their hiring.

On Jan. 10, the state Senate Small Business, Insurance and Industry Committee questioned witnesses on Senate Bill 572, the bill that revives the workers’ compensation reforms. The session was held before a packed room, indicating the interest both employers and workers’ rights advocates have taken in the bill.

The bill combines two reforms pushed by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce. The first would reduce the right of injured workers to file lawsuits against co-workers whose conduct contributed to the injury. If passed, the law would prevent such lawsuits except in cases where the co-worker purposely caused the injury. In other words, workers would be immune from lawsuits over injuries caused by their negligence. Testifying at the hearing, the general counsel for the Chamber of Commerce claimed that the reform would create a “better workplace environment” and lead to more jobs.

The other portion of the bill would reform the state’s Second Injury Fund, which exists to compensate those with preexisting disabilities that are worsened in a workplace injury. As we discussed on Jan. 10, the Fund’s administrators said it is in danger of running out of money due to a change in the way employers pay into the fund in 2005. The business-backed reform would limit future Second Injury claims by reducing the number of qualifying preexisting conditions.

The committee did not take a vote on the bill following the hearing.

Source: Ozarks First, “Debate Rages Over Missouri Workers’ Comp Reform,” Tim Sampson, Jan. 10, 2012

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