05-06: Changes to Workers' Compensation Law Go Into Effect

Date:   January 18, 2005

This bulletin is intended to provide underwriters and other insurance company employees with information regarding Missouri 's newly enacted workers' compensation law. This bulletin focuses on the legislative intent of an amendment to section 287.110 in Senate Bills 1 & 130.

New Legislation

During the 2005 legislative session, the Missouri General Assembly passed Senate Bills 1 & 130, which modified the workers' compensation law by rejecting and abrogating certain earlier case law interpretations and emphasizing the importance of the many new definitions and strict interpretation of the new law. For claims to be compensable, work must be the prevailing factor, not just a substantial factor, causing the injury.

The bill was truly agreed and finally passed on March 15, 2005 after being sent to conference. On March 2, 2005, the House had passed the House Committee Substitute for Senate Substitute for Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bills Nos. 1 & 130.

In the bill that was passed and signed by the Governor, an amendment to Section 287.110 has caused some confusion to insurers. Subsection reads as follows:

"This chapter shall apply in all cases within its provisions except those exclusively covered by any federal law and those addressed in section 287.120."

Section 287.120.1., expressing an entirely inconsistent directive, states:

"Every employer subject to the provisions of this chapter shall be liable, irrespective of negligence, to furnish compensation under the provisions of this chapter for personal injury or death of the employee by accident arising out of and in the course of [his] the employee's employment, and shall be released from all other liability therefor whatsoever, whether to the employee or any other person."

The Department has reviewed the legislative history and concludes that the General Assembly did not intend to carve out an exception that eliminates the whole of the workers' compensation law. To do so would render other numerous and detailed amendments entirely meaningless.

Applying ordinary principles of statutory construction, the Director concludes that General Assembly did not intend to eliminate the workers' compensation system in this provision. The contradiction in Section 287.120 creates ambiguity, and the Missouri Supreme Court precedent makes it clear that it is proper to consider legislative history where ambiguity exists.

Prior to SB 1 & 130 being voted into conference, the House Committee Substitute version, which passed the House on March 2, read as follows:

"This chapter shall apply in all cases within its provisions except those exclusively covered by any federal law and those addressed in subsection 11 of section 287.120."

The Director concludes that when subsection 11 was removed from the amendment to Section 287.120, this particular section was incompletely revised, failing to reflect legislative intent. This error in drafting does not obscure the clear legislative intent of the General Assembly.

Insurance companies are advised that Senate Bills 1 & 130 became effective on August 28, 2005 and insurers will be held to the intended requirements of Missouri 's workers' compensation law.