A proposed piece of legislation recently introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives purports to give relief to mesothelioma cancer victims who developed their disease through the course of their employment. The proposed law, House Bill 1234, would amend The Pennsylvania Occupational Disease Act (Act) to allow mesothelioma cancer victims to file for workers’ compensation claim. The result, however, would arguably preclude mesothelioma victims common law claims against his employer making workers’ compensation the “exclusive remedy” barring the victims day in court.
As the law currently stands in the state of Pennsylvania, workers who develop an occupational disease as a result of their employment must do so within 300 weeks of their last workplace exposure or date of employment. Those who become aware of or receive their occupational disease diagnosis outside the 300-week statute of limitations are generally barred from receiving workers’ compensation benefits. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Tooey v. AK Steel Corp., 623 Pa. 60 (2013) recognized that mesothelioma victims would have no remedy under the Act and held that the exclusivity provision does not preclude a plaintiff’s common law claims.
Unfortunately for those exposed to some carcinogens, their life-changing diagnosis is not received until many years after their last exposure due to the latency period associated with their condition. This is especially true for those who suffer from mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fibers in once common, everyday industrial and military applications.