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Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling favors sick workers

Prior to a new ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, ill or injured workers could not qualify for compensation if exposure to potentially dangerous material took place more than 300 weeks prior to filing their case, as per the Workers' Compensation Act. In August 2010, the state Superior Court upheld the 300-week rule. However, on Nov. 22, the high court made the determination that an occupational disease that manifests itself beyond the 300-week period would not rule out a civil action against an employer.

Mesothelioma was expressly singled out by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices as an example because it possesses a latency period that averages from 30 to 50 years; even on the lower end of the average period, it would still be several decades past the period of exposure. Hence, virtually all mesothelioma claims were excluded from possible litigation.

According to one attorney, this decision is expected to go a long way toward the protection of workers' rights when they have suffered at the hands of a negligent employer. He went on to say that it is hoped that the decision might influence other states to take action in protecting the rights of employees. It was stated by another party that the decision could also create an environment in which more employers could be held liable after their workers face on-the-job exposure to materials that are potentially dangerous.

Any employee who has contracted a workplace illness could have been denied compensation due to the 300-week rule. A workers' compensation claim might now be an option that could help an individual in this position by re-visiting the case and pursuing compensation.

Source: The Pennsylvania Record, "Pa. Supreme Court: workers can sue employers over latent occupational diseases", Jon Campisi, December 13, 2013

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