In a case decided September 13, 2011, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, announced a "substantial departure from prior law" in holding that employees, who suffered work-related occupational diseases, now have the option of suing their employers in civil court. The case is State ex rel. KCP&L Greater Missouri Operations Company v. Cook, 353 S.W.3d 14.
Prior to the 2005 Amendment to the Missouri Workers Compensation laws, employees were prohibited from filing lawsuits in civil court against their employers for occupational diseases. The legal remedy for recovering for an "Occupational Disease" was exclusively a Workers Compensation claim. The 2005 amendment changed the definition of "accident" to now be limited to an injury caused by a specific event during a single work shift.
Further, the 2005 amendments require the workers compensation statutes to be strictly construed. Although "occupational disease" is defined in the workers compensation amendments, the court found that the plain language of the 2005 amendments' exclusivity provisions are limited to injuries or death caused by an "accident". Now, under the 2005 "strict construction" requirement, the court found that the law's exclusivity provision no longer applies to conditions such as asbestosis and cancer. Therefore, workers are now allowed to pursue claims against their employers directly in the civil courts for diseases and medical conditions caused by their employment.
If you or a loved one become ill or are seriously injured because of a work related condition or accident, you should be aware that there are specific rules and procedures that must be followed to protect your right to recover for your damages. The attorneys at Tatlow, Gump, Faiella and Wheelan, LLC of Moberly, Missouri, have the experience and expertise to pursue your case, whether it be in the civil courts or in the Workers Compensation system.