Pennsylvania Supreme Court makes ruling about workers' compensation

For the past several years, a case related to worker's compensation law has been making its way up the Pennsylvania court ladder. At the center of the case is a decision about whether workers can bring lawsuits against employers for latent occupational diseases. The decision of the state Supreme Court in November impacted two cases, which were consolidated into one appeal.

Both cases involve men who were exposed to asbestos during the course of employment. The first man was exposed during employment from 1964 through 1982. The second man was employed from 1946 through 1992. Both men were diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2007, and one of the men died within the year.

Lawsuits were filed in both cases by the men and their wives. In both cases, employers sought to have the cases dismissed. The employers cited workers' compensation law that limits suits to issues developed during employment or within 300 days of an incident or exposure.

The lawsuits began a journey through the Pennsylvania court system. First, the trial court deemed the civil suit viable. The trial court decision was that the disease fell outside of the Workers' Compensation Act's jurisdiction.

The employers appealed the decision and the Superior Court reversed the trial court decision. Using different cases than the trial court cited, the Superior Court decided against the plaintiffs. The appeals court cited a memorandum from the state Supreme Court that said employees in such circumstances had legal recourse outside of the Workers' Compensation Act.

In a review of the consolidated appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the appellate court decision. The Supreme Court noted that legal structures had changed since its original memorandum. Since workers' comp was not optional, employees were forced into coverage that might not cover every issue. In the case of mesothelioma, the disease takes longer than 300 to manifest, making it impossible for workers to be diagnosed in time to qualify for the limit.

Workers' comp law can be complex and confusing. Educating yourself about the law and all your options in the event you are diagnosed with a workplace illness is the first step toward compensation for your expenses and suffering. Call 888-99-DUGAN today!

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