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Mesothelioma Victim's Widow Takes Appeal to Missouri Supreme Court

A Missouri Appeals Court recently transferred what could be a precedent setting mesothelioma cancer claim to the state Supreme Court after the court determined that the two sides presented constitutional challenges to Missouri's 2014 law governing mesothelioma workers' compensation claims. Filing on behalf of her deceased husband, the plaintiff seeks over $500,000 in benefits under Missouri's new law for herself and children as dependents while the defendants argue that because the victim's asbestos exposure took place before the new statute took effect it should not be liable to pay benefits.


According to documents filed with the Missouri Court of Appeals, for 30 years the victim worked as a vinyl tile installer and was repeatedly exposed to asbestos using a material called "cut back," which is a vinyl adhesive. Many years after retiring, the victim suffered a serious coughing fit in November 2017 and was hospitalized with what doctors ultimately diagnosed as complication from mesothelioma cancer.


In February 2015, the victim filed a workers compensation claim against his employer but succumbed to the diseased while the outcome was still pending. The victim's spouse then filed an amended complaint listing herself as a dependant and eight children as survivors to receive his benefits. The plaintiff filed her claim under Section 287.200.4 of the Missouri Code which is "for all claims filed on or after January 1, 2014, for occupational diseases due to toxic exposure which result in a permanent total disability or death."


The Administrative Law Judge hearing the case sided with the plaintiff, holding the employer liable under Section 287.063.2's last exposure rule and that the insurance company was liable to provide coverage to the employer for the plaintiff's mesothelioma benefits because he was diagnosed in the fall of 2014, which was within the policy period.


Both the victim's employer and its insurance company appealed the decision to the state's Workers' Compensation Commission challenging the $521,000 award. Upon reviewing the claim, the Commission upheld the Administrative Law Judge's decision, noting the injury was covered by the applicable statute and the insurer agreed to provide coverage for such claims but did remove benefits for the children under a technicality because they were not specifically mentioned as dependants.


Both the plaintiff and the insurance company appealed the decision. The plaintiff argued that the Commission erred in not awarding benefits for the eight children while the defendants argued that there was not enough evidence to supporting the Commission's award. Upon hearing the case, the Court of Appeals determined that there were constitutional questions raised by both sides and transferred the matter to the Missouri Supreme Court, which holds the sole authority to decide such legal matters.


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