Legislation would abrogate Missouri appeals court decision, sponsor says
S.B. 572 takes aim at recent court decisions that "twisted the legislative intent of the statutes," according to the Missouri Chamber of Commerce. The proposed bill would "abrogate a 2010 appeals court decision that opened up co-employees" to risk of personal lawsuits, according to Senate Majority Floor Leader Tom Dempsey who sponsored the measure.
Specifically, the bill "ensures that employers and co-employees shall be released from liability for all workplace injuries and death beyond those covered under the workers' compensation system," the legislation states. It also "affirmatively states that occupational diseases are exclusively covered under workers' compensation laws" -- language that was left out of a previously revised statute.
Two similar measures were defeated in 2011. Business organizations say reforming the workers' comp system is a top priority in this year's session.
"The bills stemmed from recent court decisions that could create big problems for small businesses," according to the Missouri chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business. The sentiment was echoed by the chamber, which vowed to return "the workers' compensation system as the exclusive remedy for workplace accidents."
The measure was the subject of a recent committee hearing after it was introduced by Dempsey. He said it offers solutions to problems facing the workforce and their employers.
"Ending lawsuit abuses, relieving the need for additional insurance to cover honest accidents at work, and protecting injured workers while keeping costs reasonable for employers are all important to making sure Missouri businesses can grow and hire more employees," Dempsey said.
The measure also addresses concerns about the state's Second Injury Fund. The fund currently has more than $921 million in obligations "not including 27,000 pending cases or new cases filed each month," he said. The state's attorney general reported the fund is insolvent and stopped settling cases in 2010 in an attempt to sustain the fund. "The attorney general has not presented a solution to address the funding shortfall."
The legislation would reduce the types of injuries handled by the fund while providing a short-term cash flow mechanism to address pending claims, Dempsey said.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
January 23, 2012
Copyright 2012© LRP Publications