Posted: May 15, 2012 8:01 PM
Updated: May 15, 2012 8:04 PM
JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Senate, by a vote of 34 to 0, Tuesday passed a measure that reforms Missouri's Workers' Compensation System. The bill, House Bill 1540, would restore protections for co-employees from personal lawsuits for their role in honest accidents at work.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, the measure's handler in the Senate said the changes would improve Missouri's business climate.
"This bill presents a real solution to problems facing our state's employers and workers," said Dempsey. "Ending lawsuit abuses and relieving the need for additional insurance to cover honest accidents at work are important to making sure Missouri businesses can grow and hire more employees."
The bill would, on a going forward bases, addresses a 2010 appeals court decision that opened up co-employees to this risk.
"It's unacceptable that an employee injured in an honest accident at work can sue their co-employees," Dempsey said. "Coworkers, most of whom do not have insurance when it comes to covering their role in workplace accidents, should not be open to lawsuits as a secondary slush fund for those injured on the job. The responsibility should begin and end with the employer and the workers' compensation system."
Senate Leader Robert N. Mayer, R-Dexter, said the measure is one of several priorities designed to spur job creation in Missouri.
"There are too many Missourians unemployed and it is vital we are moving forward in fixing the current failed policies so businesses will begin to invest and hire more employees," said Mayer. "I appreciate Sen. Dempsey's work on this important step in creating a climate in Missouri where businesses will want to expand."
Unlike the previous version of workers' comp reform the General Assembly passed early this year and was then vetoed by the governor in March, HB 1540 removed provisions relating to diseases caused by toxic exposure.
"It was critical to revise to the co-employee liabilities portion of the workers' compensation system because it is killing businesses and costing Missourians jobs," Dempsey said. "We continue to work with the governor to find a solution on occupational diseases, but, moved forward with this legislation so businesses can grow and put Missourians back to work."
The bill now moves to the governor for his signature to make the measure law.