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The Illinois House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that will remove any period of repose for the filing of workers compensation claims relating to occupational disease, essentially exposing employers in the state to unlimited liability for these claims.
S.B. 1596, which passed 70-40-1 along party lines, amends the state’s Workers Compensation Act and Workers Occupational Diseases Act to provide that an employee or his or her heirs have essentially unlimited standing to bring an action against an employer in circuit court for injuries caused by occupational disease.
Currently, the state’s workers comp laws have a 25-year statute of repose for claims alleging occupational injury and a three-year statute of repose for occupational disease.
Eugene Keefe, of Chicago law firm Keefe, Campbell, Biery & Associates LLC, said this legislation is essentially trying to reverse the Illinois Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Folta v. Ferro Engineering, which held that if an occupational injury or disease first presents after the statute of limitations set forth in the state’s workers comp and occupational diseases acts, that the worker’s action is barred by the exclusive remedy provision. Mr. Keefe said he believes this bill is going to kill business, particularly companies affected by the “thousands of asbestos claims pending” in Madison County, Illinois.
The bill passed March 6 in the Illinois Senate and will now go to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk for a signature.
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