Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed new legislation that allows workers suffering from latent diseases due to toxic substance exposure in the workplace to pursue legal action in civil court. Senate Bill 1569 was enforced on May 17 after it passed through the General Assembly in under a month.
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and the Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act impose a 25-year limit on work injury claims. Under the new law, a worker injured due to toxic exposure can sue an employer for civil damages even after the statute of limitations for workers’ compensation claims expires.
The bill protects people diagnosed with latent diseases or injuries even decades after they were exposed to toxic substances such as asbestos and radiation in the workplace. It offers them a way to be compensated if the symptoms of their illness do not manifest until the 25-year limit expires. Injuries that meet the criteria for filing a claim include cancer, lower back pain and repetitive trauma, among others.
Representative Jay Hoffman and Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. sponsored the legislation after an Illinois Supreme Court ruling that prevented a woman from pursuing compensation because her husband’s mesothelioma symptoms emerged after the 25-year time limit expired. Mesothelioma is a lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure.