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MO Senate gives preliminary approval to workers' comp reform

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The Missouri Senate yesterday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would reform the state's workers' compensation laws.

Senate Bill 572, sponsored by Senate Majority Floor Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, calls for barring employees from suing co-workers for on-the-job injuries, and it would require coverage of occupational diseases by the workers' compensation system.

"Currently, what's taking place in the workplace, employees are suing other employees for workplace injuries," Dempsey said during yesterday's meeting, calling the issue a "problem that we have with co-employee liability."

The bill was perfected in a split voice vote during the meeting. The proposal requires a second positive vote before it would move to the Missouri House for consideration.

Workers' compensation reform is part of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry's 2012 legislative agenda. The initiative, known as the Missouri Business Climate Agenda, also asks lawmakers to address employment law and tort reform, according to Springfield Business Journal archives.

In a news release yesterday, the state chamber praised the Senate's actions, calling the bill "common-sense workers' compensation reforms."

“Our goal is to create strong law that the courts can look to for resolution in workers’ compensation cases,” Missouri Chamber President and CEO Daniel Mehan said in the release. “These changes provide clarity of the law and certainty for employers, and most important, protects employees as the system was intended.”

In naming workers' compensation reform as one of its focuses during this year's legislative session, the chamber pointed to the court case Robinson v. Hooker. In that case involving two co-workers employed by the city of Kansas City, the plaintiff was blinded when the defendant hit him with a high-pressure hose. An appellate court overturned a ruling that dismissed a negligence suit against the defendant because a workers' compensation claim had been made.
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