There is legislation pending in Missouri that would require employees seeking compensation for “occupational diseases due to toxic exposure,” including mesothelioma, to rely on workman’s compensation benefits. The bill, Senate Bill 1, would prevent employees from seeking justice in a court of law for injuries and deaths related to on-the-job exposure to toxins.
Specifically, the bill defines “occupational diseases due to toxic exposure” to include only mesothelioma, asbestosis, coal worker’s pneumonconiosis (or “black lunch disease”), berylliosis, brochiolitis obliterans, silicosis, silicotuberculosis, manganism, acute myelogenous leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome.
The proposed legislation would cap an employer’s responsibility to compensate employees affected with the defined “occupational disease due to toxic exposure” in most cases at 200 percent of the state’s average weekly wage for 100 weeks. Mesothelioma victim compensation would be capped at 300 percent of the state’s average weekly wage for 191 weeks.
According to the Minnesota Department of Labor, Division of Workers’ Compensation, the State Average Weekly Wage (SAWW) used to determine maximum workers’ compensation benefits for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012 and ending June 30, 2013 is $788.33. Information online establishes maximum weekly benefit rates for injury and illness and states “the actual weekly wage necessary to attain the maximum benefit rate is $1241.63 for Death, Temporary Total Disability and Permanent Total Disability and $650.34 for Permanent Partial Disability.”
The bill was referred to the House Rules Committee on March 27, 2013. Governor Jay Nixon, who has vetoed similar bills that seek to limit workers’ rights to seek civil justice in on-the-job injury cases, is expected to sign this bill if it passes the House and Senate.