Supporters of a workers’ compensation bill claim it is a fix to the system, not an attempt to keep anyone from seeking recourse in civil court.
The House has given strong approval, 102-55, to HB 162.
Sponsor Barney Fisher, a state representative from Richards, succeeded in keeping his language in tact that would make no doubt that workplace diseases continue to be treated within the workers comp system, not in the civil courts. He accuses opponents of distorting his bill.
“I think the perception was put out by the opponents of this that once the workers comp system pays that you’re done. That there is nothing else that can be obtained, no more relief and that is simply not the case,” Fisher says.
Fisher points out that workers with claims can still sue third parties, such as the case with mesothelioma.
House Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones (R-Eureka) says the House is simply trying to address issues raised in two court cases.
“We believe this is a clarification of existing law going back 80 years. Our opposition believes that we are doing some kind of carve out,” says Jones. “I think the courts did the carve out, the improper carve out or they were trying to walk down that path and we’ve simply made a clarification of 80 years of existing law.”
Two court cases ruled that the legislature took workplace diseases out of the system when it tightened workers comp rules in 2005.