As new cases of COVID-19 hopefully begin to level off (or at least increase more slowly) in Missouri, the legal battles in the Missouri workers’ compensation system are beginning to heat up.
As reported by The Kansas City Business Journal, attorneys for the family of a nurse who died of COVID-19 are saying that her employer’s insurer is fighting her husband’s work comp claim for death benefits despite reports of multiple outbreaks at the nursing home where the woman worked.The insurance carrier and the employer said the reaction is premature and that the claim is still under review.
The husband’s attorneys are turning up the heat in the media, charging that the employer also has opened itself to a potential retaliation claim, for what they call a “vindictive” withdrawal of a vaccine offer to the nurse’s husband. The nursing home has allegedly acknowledged that the disease was contracted at work, and the husband’s law firm is investigating reports that the facility failed to inform workers about positive COVID tests among staff and residents,
The case also highlights the limits of Missouri’s COVID presumption rule, which covers comp claims from first responders but not health care workers. Missouri’s governor early in the pandemic issued an executive order creating a presumption that COVID-19 is employment-related for first responders. Lawmakers followed with a law to that effect. With the order and the statute due to expire, the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations in January issued an emergency rule, effectively extending the presumption. The rule does not apply to nurses, though, and nurses’ groups have called for a broader presumption law.
A bill has been filed in the Missouri House of Representatives that would provide a presumption that infectious diseases and other conditions are work-caused for first responders, but not health care workers.
the disease, and her case was reported by national news media, including CNN and Newsweek. The family’s claim was settled in November for an undisclosed amount.
As an attorney for the husband pointed out, many COVID claims can be proven as work-related, even without a presumption Last May, a Kansas City hospital nurse died of the disease. Her family’s claim was settled in November for an undisclosed amount.
I, like many other Missouri workers’ comp lawyers, have been retained by COVID victims and their families. As many insurance defense law firm blogs have pointed out, finding medical experts to testify about this relatively new and unknown occupational disease may turn out to be a challenge, especially in regard to proving that a worker was exposed to the Corona virus at work.
Missouri law does not (at least for now) require that a work exposure be a Corona victim’s only exposure. So while we are hopefully turning the corner in the real world’s and medical world’s battles against COVID-19, the fight in the world of MO workers’ comp is just beginning to heat up.