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.
The latency period between exposure and diagnosis of mesothelioma can be anywhere from 15 to 50 years, well beyond the just over five-year statute of limitations afforded under Pennsylvania workers’ compensation laws but within the statute of limitation for common law claims. Consequently, the employee who is diagnosed with mesothelioma has common law claims against his employer.
The bill’s sponsor extends the 300 week-deadline under the guise that the legislation would be especially beneficial for mesothelioma cancer victims by “Restoring Workers Compensation as the Exclusive Remedy for all Work Related Injuries”. The bill would effectively eliminate the employee’s common law claim against his employer. The result would drastically reduce the compensation that would be available to the employee providing a windfall for the employer who knowingly exposed its employees to asbestos. Notably, this bill is similar to the failed HB 2207 introduced in the 2017-2018 legislative session.
When plaintiffs do file mesothelioma cancer lawsuits, they generally allege that they suffer from the disease because the defendant knew or should have known its products contained asbestos fibers but did not provide warning. An asbestos cancer lawsuit can help recover compensation for the victim’s lost wages, past and future medical bills, and past and future pain and suffering of living with a terminal disease. In cases in which the victim passes away before the statute of limitations has passed or the court has heard the lawsuit, the surviving family members may continue the claim on the estate’s behalf.
Nationwide Mesothelioma Lawyer
If you or a loved one was diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact our office to speak to one of our experienced mesothelioma attorneys about your situation. Our office can help investigate your case and determine if compensation can be sought from negligent parties to help pay for your medical treatment.