March 20, 2019

Employers Lose Protection of the WC/OD Acts

March 20, 2019

Illinois is contemplating enacting amendments to the exclusivity provisions of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and Occupational Diseases Act. Currently, the Acts serve as the exclusive remedy for work-place injuries and depending on the injury or exposure, there is a time limit for an employee to file a claim. Senate Bill 1596 would permit direct civil actions against employers for injury and death claims after the time for filing has run under the Acts. The impact of this bill will likely be seen in asbestos exposure claims, cancer claims, and claims of workplace radiological exposure, where the discovery of the condition is made after the applicable time for filing under the Acts has run. As of March 14, 2019, the bill passed both houses of the Illinois General Assembly. The Senate sent the bill to Governor J.B. Pritzker for signature on March 20, 2019.

Fortunately, the bill should have limited applicability. We believe the bill is in response to a recent Illinois Supreme Court case, Folta v. Ferro Engineering, which left an injured plaintiff with work-related mesothelioma with no recovery under either Act, due to the fact that the claim was barred by the time limit provisions of the Acts. Specifically, Plaintiff’s condition was not diagnosed until 41 years after his last exposure, and the Act barred any claim filed 25 years after last exposure to asbestos, leaving the injured Plaintiff without a remedy.

As a result of the proposed bill, employers may need to consider additional coverage for this expansion in civil liability. The bill, while limited in scope, nonetheless takes a turn from the last 80 years of workers’ compensation legislation in Illinois that left the exclusivity provisions relatively untouched.

Please contact any of our attorneys at 312-855-1105 if you have questions about this proposed bill, or any recent legislation and the impacts they may have on your business.