Workplace diseases would once again be covered by workers compensation under a bill passing the House and moving to the Senate, despite efforts to isolate one disease in particular.

A couple of court cases have cast doubt on whether changes to the workers compensation system made by the legislature in 2005 excluded occupational diseases. The House has approved 102-to-55 a bill that keeps workplace disease claims within workers comp as they have been since 1931.

Rep. Jacob Hummel (D-St. Louis) tries unsuccessfully to exclude mesothelioma, giving emotional testimony on the House floor about the painful death of his grandfather who contracted the disease as a carpenter.

“His life and the suffering he went through is worth more than four months pay in workman’s comp,” Hummel tells colleagues during House floor debate.

Other critics of HB 162 argue that keeping mesothelioma within workers comp prevents employees from suing employers who knew working conditions were dangerous, perhaps even life-threatening.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Barney Fisher (R-Richards) disputes charges that his bill cuts off avenues for sufferers to sue.

“There are recourses; there are third parties available to sue if they haven’t already been sued out of existence. There are VA claims that can be filed,” Fisher says on the House floor. “We’re not cutting anybody off.”

Fisher’s argument won the day. The bill now moves to the Senate.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:60 MP3]