MO Statehouse
4:19 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

Mo. House passes workers' compensation change

The Missouri House has passed a bill that would place diseases contracted on the job under the state's workers' compensation system.

Currently, workers who've contracted illnesses such as Black Lung disease and Mesothelioma are ineligible to receive workers' comp benefits, but they can can sue their employers in circuit court.

The bill's opponents, including State Representative Mike Colona (D, St. Louis), says moving such diseases to workers' comp would mean victims would receive less money than they would have in court.

"What we are doing is rewarding employers who really didn't care, who truly did put profit over the health of their workers," Colona said during House floor debate.

But House Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones (R, Eureka) says allowing litigation to continue over occupational illnesses would devastate Missouri's economy.

"We would be putting more employers and more businesses out of business and putting more people out of work, which is the exact opposite of our proposals and our initiatives this year," Jones said.

The sponsor, State Representative Barney Fisher (R, Richards), says the bill would lighten court caseloads while still allowing victims to sue third parties, such as makers of hazardous materials.

The bill now goes to the Missouri Senate, where their version leaves occupational diseases in the court system.