Proposed Pennsylvania Legislation May Increase Workers’ Compensation Claims for Asbestos-Related Diseases
Republican Pennsylvania State Representative, Eli Evankovich introduced a bill on April 2, 2018 to eliminate the ability of employees to sue their employers for asbestos-related diseases. Prior to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s issuance of the Tooey decision in November 2013, Pennsylvania employees were barred from filing suit against their employers due to the exclusivity provision of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation. Tooey v. AK Steel., 81 A.3.d 851 (2013). Those employees could file a workers’ compensation claim if diagnosed within 300 weeks of their last date of exposure, but due to the long latency period of asbestos-related conditions such claims were almost always time-barred. As a result, employees were often left without recourse against their employer. The Supreme Court crafted a remedy in Tooey by allowing civil suits against employers to proceed if the 300 week window had expired.
As a result, Pennsylvania employers faced a substantial surge in lawsuits. The legislation proposed by Representative Evankovich seeks to abolish these suits and place all claims back into the workers’ compensation arena. The proposed bill does so by allowing workers’ compensation claims to be filed within 300 weeks of diagnosis of the condition, not the date of exposure. Under the bill, the claimant has the burden of proving that the disease has a latency period of more than 300 weeks. While the proposed legislation is meant to help employers avoid civil liability, it will increase the number of workers’ compensation claims filed if it is passed into law.