WSIA-supported reform legislation clears first legislative hurdle
As we featured on our blog yesterday, Senate Bill 5822 was introduced on Wednesday and on the same day received a vote out of the Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee. SB 5822 is the employer community's reform bill addressing occupational disease causation, structured settlements eligibility, third party settlements, and self-insurance claims management authority. While the bill cleared this first hurdle by getting voted out of committee, and enjoys the sponsorship of 23 of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus's 25 members, it will face many fights ahead as these issues are always controversial. Read the blog post here, or check out the employer community's support paper on the bill.
Presumptive occupational disease bills also on the move in Legislature
Also this week, the House Labor Committee voted out two significant bills expanding presumptive coverage. House Bill 1723 targets the self-insured US Department of Energy Hanford nuclear site, and would provide presumptive coverage to an exceptionally broad array of workers for a substantial number of conditions. House Bill 1655 expands stress-related claims coverage for law enforcement and firefighters, and presumes that PTSD is an occupational disease for police and firefighters. At the same time, a measure introduced in the Senate, Senate Bill 5477, to expand the existing occupational disease presumption for firefighters, was stopped in committee this week and is unlikely to move this year.
>> View our latest weekly legislative update (member login req'd)
Supreme Court decides Larson and Spivey cases
Speaking of occupational disease presumption, since our last newsletter the Washington Supreme Court released its decisions in Larson v. Bellevue and Spivey v. Bellevue, two consolidated cases on direct appeal from superior court. The issues in Larson and Spivey were whether an employer has rebutted the existing occupational disease presumption for firefighters is a question of law to be decided by a judge, or a question of fact to be decided by a judge; how that rebuttal burden of proof should be communicated to a jury; and whether an employer must pay claimant's attorneys' fees for litigation at the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals even if the employer prevailed at that level. The Supreme Court sided against the city's position, holding that rebuttal of the presumption is goes to a jury; that the burden of proof is on the employer for establishing the rebuttal; and that the city must pay claimants' attorney's fees at the Board level even if it prevailed there. Click the link above to read the opinion.
Cory Turner appointed as Vocational Rehabilitation rep on WSIA Board
Earlier this month, vocational specialist Cory Turner of Wenatchee-based Vocational Connections was appointed to WSIA's Board of Directors by President Sheri Sundstrom as our Vocational Representative. Cory joins with our Vice President for Associates, Jan Donley, on a number of vocational projects in conjunction with the Department of Labor & Industries and vocational community. For our members in the vocational services field, please be on the lookout for future communications and updates from Cory. She steps in for departing board member Cloie Johnson of OSC Vocational Systems, after her distinguished and very successful term of service on our Board.
>> Interested in the WSIA Board of Directors? A limited number of Board positions may come open for the 2017-2018 program year, starting July 1. To learn more, contact Kris Tefft.
BIIA Judge Patrick added to Spring Conference Line-Up
With a month to go until our Spring Conference, which is all about Evidence-Based Medicine in workers' compensation, we continue to add presenters to the conference agenda. We're very concerned with how EBM guidelines and decisions are treated once they end up in litigation at the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, so we've invited Industrial Appeals Judge Knowrasa Patrick to join attorney presenter Tim Reeve on one of our agenda items, discussing the treatment of EBM at the Board. Spaces are filling up, so check out the program here and get your registration in!
In the other Washington... new US DOL secretary nominated
Issues as diverse as federal OSHA regulations and consultation/compliance culture to possible federal involvement or takeover of parts of workers' compensation matter to us here in this Washington, so we watch the US Department of Labor with great interest. With the withdrawal of Secretary of Labor nominee Carl Puzder this week, we note the nomination of former US Attorney, National Labor Relations Board member, and current law school dean Alexander Acosta as Secretary of Labor. While Acosta is a more conventional cabinet pick, no one can really say for sure yet what specific direction the DOL or OSHA is likely to take in the Trump administration. Stay tuned.
Get ready to Raise Your Game! - save the date for our Annual Conference
In a couple weeks, we'll be opening registration for this year's Annual Conference that will be taking place May 10-12th in the Tri-Cities, so please be sure to get the dates on your calendar now! Excitement is already building for this year's program agenda and three days of fun, sun, and insights. If you're interested in being a new or returning conference sponsor this year, here's your chance to get your sponsorship reserved early and your name out to the community from the start. Click here for early sponsorship details and contact Kari Heinold with any questions.
One of the conference's national keynoters, industry thought leader Peter Rousmaniere, just had an interesting article on WorkersCompensation.com yesterday on the digitization of the workers' comp industry -- check it out here.
Last call for free Legal Year in Review webinar
WSIA Legal Chair John Klor holds his popular annual webinar, complimentary for WSIA members, next Thursday February 23rd from 9 to 11 am, highlighting the legal year in review for 2016-17. Logins are limited to the first one hundred, and there are a handful of slots left. All you have to do is RSVP. Click here for details.