As Missouri Supreme Court hears SIF case, Missouri House advances bill intended to fix problems with SIF and workers’ compensation

 

JEFFERSON CITY – One day after the Missouri Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments from claimants who are not receiving the funding they have been awarded from Missouri’s Second Injury Fund, Missouri House members approved legislation designed to bring solvency back to the fund.

“Facing total unpaid liabilities of nearly $1 billion, Missouri’s Second Injury Fund is in a position from which it cannot recover without significant measures,” said Brendan Cossette, Missouri Chamber director of legislative affairs and assistant general counsel.  “There is no easy road to addressing the insolvency.  But through hours of work with stakeholders, we continue to move toward resolution that can be signed by the governor, get claimants the money that is owed them, and protect employers from the growing liability of a broken system.”

One of the primary reasons the fund is insolvent is because of the dramatic expansion of claims that have been run through the fund over the last two decades. SB 1 dramatically limits those claims.

“We applaud leadership and the bill sponsor, Sen. Scott Rupp, who made this issue a priority and we are optimistic that the legislation continues to move forward.  Bill handler in the House, Rep. Todd Richardson, has devoted a lot of time and effort in this bill,” said Cossette.

The legislation also addresses another priority of the Missouri Chamber.  SB 1 includes a provision that would bring the vast majority of occupational diseases back under Missouri workers’ compensation system.  Following workers’ compensation reforms passed in 2005, the courts began interpreting the law to exclude occupational disease from being covered as the exclusive remedy by the workers’ compensation system. 

“It is a responsible compromise needed to get the majority of OD back under the system. Leaving occupational disease open ended was simply allowing the money grab for trial attorneys to continue,” said Cossette.

 

According to a report by Missouri Lawyers Weekly, a lawyer for the Second Injury Fund urged the Missouri Supreme Court on Wednesday to provide an “orderly exit from a bad situation.”

 

“The Missouri Chamber agrees that it is a bad situation, but we are hopeful that the resolution can come from the legislature instead, including much needed reforms to protect the fund and employers into the future,” Cossette said.

 

The bill now heads back to the Missouri Senate to approve the bill, or call a conference with the House to work out differences.

 

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry (www.mochamber.com) was founded in 1923 and is the largest business association in Missouri, representing almost 3,000 employers providing more than 425,000 jobs for Missourians

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