Workers’ Comp, Second Injury Fund Bills Die in Legislature

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Workers’ Compensation on Monday, May 16, 2011

The Missouri Legislature began its 2011 session with Republican control of both houses and the governor’s mansion. Emboldened business leaders pursued a series of pro-management reform bills it called the “Fix the Six.” However, as the president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry noted, it can be difficult to pass a bill, even under apparently favorable political circumstances.

That may explain why the proposed toughening of Missouri’s workers’ compensation system failed before the session ended on May 13. The state House and Senate each had passed a version of the bill, which would prohibit injured workers from suing any co-workers who may have been responsible for the injury in most cases. Pro-business advocates claim that a 2005 bill that made it harder for injured workers to qualify for compensation should have also included the ban on suing co-workers.

But the chambers were not able to agree on wording. The House bill included an exception to the lawsuit ban if a co-worker “intentionally” caused or increased the risk of injury. In the Senate bill’s exception, a co-worker who caused an injury would have been exempt from lawsuit unless he or she acted “in an affirmative negligent act that purposefully and dangerously” caused the injury. Negotiators from the House and Senate came up with a compromise bill, which passed the Senate on May 13 but was not brought up for vote in the House.

While that may be a victory for injured workers, the failure of a bill to fund the Second Injury Fund may lead to its bankruptcy, which would leave many people injured on the job uncompensated. The fund was set up to pay benefits to people whose pre-existing injuries are worsened on the job. As we discussed in a previous post, some legislators proposed a temporary raise on the surcharge businesses pay into the fund, but business leaders balked at the increased payments. Governor Jay Nixon said that legislators may try to fix the fund again next year.

Source: Daily Journal, “Business groups get mixed results during 2011 Missouri legislative session,” Wes Duplantier, May 14, 2011

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