West Virginia Senate Bill 252 Seeks to Eliminate Workers’ Right to Sue an Employer After a Serious Injury or Death

Senate Bill 252/HB 4394 as introduced in the West Virginia Legislative Session on January 13th, 2022, by Senator Trump (R-Morgan County) and Senator Woodrum (R- Summers County) is an attempt to dismantle the well-established civil justice system for injured workers in West Virginia.

Under present West Virginia law, an employee has the legal right to bring a claim against his employer for deliberate intent if the employer deliberately exposed that employee to harm that could have and should have been avoided.

When corporations knowingly violate written safety standards and their workers are killed or injured, they must be held accountable.  Instead, these representatives of the people of West Virginia are demanding that the West Virginia Legislature eliminate our state’s deliberate intent law and have total immunity.  Proposed SB 252/HB 4394 would render workers and their families powerless even in catastrophic cases like the Upper Big Branch or Sago coal mine disasters.

If Senate Bill 252 had been passed previous to these miners’ deaths, the grieving families would not have had a case against the employers who caused the deaths through unsafe working environments. These families would not have received the insurance compensation desperately needed to rebuild their lives after the tragic, untimely loss of beloved husbands, fathers, and sole financial providers of their households.

Deliberate Intent Claims in West Virginia for Catastrophic Workplace Injuries and Death – Current Law – 2022


 

West Virginia Lawmakers Need to Reject SB 252/HB 4394

Please tell West Virginia lawmakers to protect our workers and their families.  Corporations shouldn’t be allowed to knowingly violate the law and then get off the hook when their workers are killed and injured.  Corporations shouldn’t be allowed to pad their profits at the expense of workers’ lives and limbs.

When employers are looking out for the safety of their workers, they protect their employees from injuries by abiding by workplace safety laws and established industry-specific best practices. This bill seeks to eliminate employers’ responsibility to protect workers’ right to a safe working environment by eliminating the financial penalty for neglecting MSHA and OSHA regulations resulting in the serious injury or death of hard-working West Virginians.

Most employers of any significant size are insured, and it is that insurance that would ultimately pay for any damages to the business’s employees (not the employer).  What the bill doesn’t address is that this is a ploy to reduce insurance company liability while the employers continue to pay their ever-increasing premiums. This bill is a double slap in the face to both the workers and the employers.  Workers and their families will suffer, and it is extremely unlikely that the employers will see any decrease in their insurance premiums.

The motivation behind such legislation is to increase the profit margin of the country’s largest insurers and their stockholders by minimizing payouts for deserving, seriously injured workers and their families.

West Virginia House Bill 252 would greatly diminish workers’ rights and would bar the most injured workers and their families from pursuing just compensation from their employer through our civil court system.  This bill is a license for employers to disregard safety, allowing unsafe work environments more reflective of a third-world country’s lack of enforced safety standards than the life-respecting standards that we have come to appreciate in the United States.

If this bill is passed in its current form, even if a worker is killed, paralyzed, or permanently maimed or disabled by a workplace accident resulting from an unsafe work environment, that worker (or his family in the event of a death or traumatic brain injury) will have no legal recourse against their employer in the West Virginia court systems to be compensated for their employer’s gross and willful violation of safety standards.

Tragic Results of Eliminating the “Deliberate Intent” clauses in West Virginia Law:

West Virginia Senate Bill 252 provides that the worker may be compensated only through the Worker’s Compensation insurance system and may never sue their employer for damages in the civil courts of law:

  • ​Even if the catastrophic injury was the direct result of unsafe working conditions directly related to the employer’s violation of state or federal safety rules and regulations
  • Even if the employer had a history of workplace safety violations
  • Even if the employer had been previously warned about the danger
  • Even if it is proved that the employer engaged in willful, wanton, and reckless misconduct that resulted in the death or permanent injury of an employee
  • Even if the worker is permanently disfigured, lost use of a body part or system, or suffered an amputation injury due to an unsafe work environment
  • Even if the business has been cited by OSHA for safety violations and found responsible for horrible injuries and/or deaths
  • Even if the family of the hard-working breadwinner of a family is suddenly killed by a situation that could have been prevented if the employer had been following the workplace safety laws set forth for businesses operating in West Virginia.

Business owners and businesses operating in the state of West Virginia must be held to the highest standards of industry safety and be held responsible for the damage to lives caused by the reckless pursuit of profits.

Our workers deserve better than this!