SENATE BILL NO. 160
INTRODUCED BY N. MCCONNELL, K. ABBOTT, J. BACHMEIER, J. BAHR, D. BARRETT, B. BENNETT, B. BESSETTE, L. BISHOP, C. BOLAND, Z. BROWN, M. CAFERRO, J. COHENOUR, W. CURDY, K. DUDIK, M. DUNWELL, D. FERN, R. FITZGERALD, P. FLOWERS, M. FUNK, F. GARNER, J. GROSS, B. GRUBBS, J. HAMILTON, D. HARVEY, D. HAYMAN, M. HOPKINS, T. JACOBSON, J. KARJALA, K. KELKER, C. KEOGH, E. KERR-CARPENTER, R. LYNCH, M. MACDONALD, S. MALEK, M. MARLER, E. MCCLAFFERTY, M. MCNALLY, S. MORIGEAU, A. OLSEN, R. PEPPERS, Z. PERRY, G. PIERSON, J. POMNICHOWSKI, J. READ, T. RICHMOND, T. RUNNINGWOLF, M. RYAN, W. SALES, D. SANDS, C. SCHREINER, J. SESSO, R. SHAW, J. SMALL, B. SMITH, F. SMITH, S. STEWART PEREGOY, K. SULLIVAN, S. VINTON, T. WELCH, T. WINTER, T. WOODS
AN ACT ESTABLISHING THE FIREFIGHTER PROTECTION ACT BY CREATING PRESUMPTIVE COVERAGE UNDER WORKERS' COMPENSATION FOR CERTAIN DISEASES ASSOCIATED WITH FIREFIGHTING ACTIVITIES; PROVIDING CONDITIONS; PROVIDING A REBUTTAL OPTION FOR INSURERS; PROVIDING OPT-IN CHOICE FOR VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTING ENTITIES; INCLUDING PRESUMPTIVE OCCUPATIONAL DISEASE WITHIN THE STATE'S PUBLIC POLICY PROVISIONS FOR WORKERS' COMPENSATION; PROVIDING DEFINITIONS; AMENDING SECTIONS 39-71-105, 39-71-124, AND 39-71-407, MCA; AND PROVIDING AN EFFECTIVE DATE AND AN APPLICABILITY DATE.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MONTANA:
Section 1. Presumptive occupational disease for firefighters -- rebuttal -- applicability -- definitions. (1) (a) A firefighter for whom coverage is required under the Workers' Compensation Act is presumed to have a claim for a presumptive occupational disease under the Workers' Compensation Act if the firefighter meets the requirements of [section 2] and is diagnosed with one or more of the diseases listed in subsection (2) within the period listed.
(b) Coverage under [section 2] and this section is optional for the employer of a firefighter for whom coverage under the Workers' Compensation Act is voluntary. An employer of a volunteer firefighter under 7-33-4109 or 7-33-4510 may elect as part of providing coverage under the Workers' Compensation Act to additionally obtain the presumptive occupational disease coverage, subject to the insurer agreeing to provide presumptive coverage.
(2) The following diseases are presumptive occupational diseases proximately caused by firefighting activities, provided that the evidence of the presumptive occupational disease becomes manifest after the number of years of the firefighter's employment as listed for each occupational disease and within 10 years of the last date on which the firefighter was engaged in firefighting activities for an employer:
(a) bladder cancer after 12 years;
(b) brain cancer of any type after 10 years;
(c) breast cancer after 5 years if the diagnosis occurs before the firefighter is 40 years old and is not known to be associated with a genetic predisposition to breast cancer;
(d) myocardial infarction after 10 years;
(e) colorectal cancer after 10 years;
(e) esophageal cancer after 10 years;
(f) kidney cancer after 15 years;
(g) leukemia after 5 years;
(h) mesothelioma or asbestosis after 10 years;
(i) multiple myeloma after 15 years;
(j) non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after 15 years; and
(k) lung cancer after 4 years.
(3) For purposes of calculating the number of years of a firefighter's employment history under subsection (2), a firefighter's employment history after July 1, 2014, may be calculated.
(4) The beneficiaries of a firefighter who otherwise would be eligible for presumptive occupational disease benefits under this section but who dies prior to filing a claim, as provided in [section 2], are eligible for death benefits in the same manner as for a death from an injury, as provided in 39-71-407. The beneficiaries under this subsection (4) are similarly bound by the provisions of exclusive remedy as provided in 39-71-411 and subject to the filing requirements in 39-71-601.
(5) (a) Subject to the provisions of subsection (5)(c), an insurer is liable for the payment of compensation for presumptive occupational disease benefits under this chapter in the same manner as provided in 39-71-407, including objective medical findings of a disease listed in subsection (2) but excluding the requirement in 39-71-407(10) that the objective medical findings trace a relationship between the presumptive occupational disease and the claimant's job history. For myocardial infarction or lung cancer under subsection (2), the diseases must be the type that can reasonably be caused by firefighting activities.
(b) (i) An insurer under plan 1, 2, or 3 that disputes a presumptive occupational disease claim has the burden of proof in establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that the firefighter is not suffering from a compensable presumptive occupational disease. An insurer that disputes the claim may pay benefits under 39-71-608 or 39-71-615 and may pursue dispute mechanisms established in Title 39, chapter 71, part 24.
(ii) An insurer is not liable for the payment of workers' compensation benefits for presumptive occupational disease if the insurer establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the firefighter was not exposed during the course and scope of the firefighter's duties to smoke or particles in a quantity sufficient to have reasonably caused the disease claimed.
(c) A total claim payment by an insurer under this section is limited to $5 million for each claim.
(6) This section does not limit an insurer's ability to assert that the occupational disease was not caused by the firefighter's employment history as a firefighter.
(7) A firefighter or the firefighter's beneficiaries may pursue the dispute remedies as provided in Title 39, chapter 71, part 24, if an insurer disputes a claim.
(8) The use of the term "occupational disease" includes a presumptive occupational disease when used in the definitions in 39-71-116 for "claims examiner", "permanent partial disability", "primary medical services", and "treating physician" and when used in 39-71-107, 39-71-307, 39-71-412, 39-71-503, 39-71-601, 39-71-604, 39-71-606, 39-71-615, 39-71-703, 39-71-704, 39-71-713, 39-71-714, 39-71-717, 39-71-1011, 39-71-1036, 39-71-1041, 39-71-1042, 39-71-1101, 39-71-1110, 39-71-1504, 39-71-2311, 39-71-2312, 39-71-2313, 39-71-2316, and 39-71-4003.
(9) [Section 2] and this section:
(a) apply only to presumptive occupational diseases for firefighters; and
(b) do not apply to any other issue relating to workers' compensation and may not be used or cited as guidance in the administration of Title 33 or 37.
(10) For the purposes of [section 2] and this section, the following definitions apply:
(a) "Firefighter" means an individual whose primary duties involve extinguishing or investigating fires, with at least 1 year of firefighting operations in Montana beginning on or after July 1, 2019, as:
(i) a firefighter defined in 19-13-104;
(ii) a volunteer firefighter defined in 7-33-4510, but only if the volunteer firefighter's employer has elected coverage under Title 39, chapter 71, with an insurer that allows an election and the employer has opted separately to include presumptive occupational disease coverage under [section 2] and this section; or
(iii) a volunteer described in 7-33-4109 for a firefighting entity that has elected coverage under Title 39, chapter 71, with an insurer that allows an election and that has opted separately to include presumptive occupational disease coverage.
(b) "Firefighting activities" means actions required of a firefighter that expose the firefighter to extreme heat or inhalation or physical exposure to chemical fumes, smoke, particles, or other toxic gases arising directly out of employment as a firefighter.
(c) "Presumptive occupational disease" means harm or damage from one or more of the diseases listed under subsection (2) that is established by objective medical findings and that is contracted in the course and scope of employment as a firefighter from either a single day or work shift or for more than a single day or work shift but that is not specific to an accident.
Section 2. Conditions for claiming presumptive occupational disease. (1) Except as provided in subsection (4), the following must be satisfied for the presumption in [section 1] to apply:
(a) the firefighter must timely file a claim for a presumptive occupational disease under Title 39, chapter 71, as soon as the firefighter knows or should have known that the firefighter's condition resulted from a presumptive occupational disease; and
(b) (i) the firefighter must have undergone, within 90 days of hiring, a medical examination that did not reveal objective medical evidence or a family history of the presumptive occupational disease for which the presumption under [section 1] is sought; and
(ii) the firefighter must have undergone subsequent periodic medical examinations at least once every 2 years.
(2) (a) Subsection (1)(b) does not require the employer of a firefighter to provide or pay for a medical examination, either at the time of hiring or during the subsequent term of employment.
(b) If the employer of a firefighter does not provide or pay for a medical examination under subsection (1)(b), the firefighter may satisfy the requirements of subsection (1)(b) by obtaining the medical examination at the firefighter's expense or at the expense of another party.
(3) To qualify for a presumptive occupational disease, a firefighter may not:
(a) be a regular user of tobacco products;
(b) have a history of regular tobacco use in the 10 years preceding the filing of the claim under subsection (1)(a); or
(c) have been exposed by a cohabitant who regularly and habitually used tobacco products within the home for a period of 10 or more years prior to the diagnosis.
(4) A firefighter who, prior to [the effective date of this act], did not receive a medical examination as frequently as the intervals set forth in subsection (1)(b) is not ineligible on that basis for a presumptive occupational disease claim under [section 1] and this section.
"39-71-105. Declaration of public policy. For the purposes of interpreting and applying this chapter, the following is the public policy of this state:
(1) An objective of the Montana workers' compensation system is to provide, without regard to fault, wage-loss and medical benefits to a worker suffering from a work-related injury or disease. Wage-loss benefits are not intended to make an injured worker whole but are intended to provide assistance to a worker at a reasonable cost to the employer. Within that limitation, the wage-loss benefit should bear a reasonable relationship to actual wages lost as a result of a work-related injury or disease.
(2) It is the intent of the legislature to assert that a conclusive presumption exists that recognizes that a holder of a current, valid independent contractor exemption certificate issued by the department is an independent contractor if the person is working under the independent contractor exemption certificate. The holder of an independent contractor exemption certificate waives the rights, benefits, and obligations of this chapter unless the person has elected to be bound personally and individually by the provisions of compensation plan No. 1, 2, or 3.
(3) A worker's removal from the workforce because of a work-related injury or disease has a negative impact on the worker, the worker's family, the employer, and the general public. Therefore, an objective of the workers' compensation system is to return a worker to work as soon as possible after the worker has suffered a work-related injury or disease.
(4) Montana's workers' compensation and occupational disease insurance systems are intended to be primarily self-administering. Claimants should be able to speedily obtain benefits, and employers should be able to provide coverage at reasonably constant rates. To meet these objectives, the system must be designed to minimize reliance upon lawyers and the courts to obtain benefits and interpret liabilities.
(5) This chapter must be construed according to its terms and not liberally in favor of any party.
(6) It is the intent of the legislature that:
(a) a stress claims claim, often referred to as a "mental-mental claims claim" and or a "mental-physical claims claim", are is not compensable under Montana's workers' compensation and occupational disease laws. The legislature recognizes that these claims are difficult to objectively verify and that the claims have a potential to place an economic burden on the workers' compensation and occupational disease system. The legislature also recognizes that there are other states that do not provide compensation for various categories of stress claims and that stress claims have presented economic problems for certain other jurisdictions. In addition, not all injuries are compensable under the present system, and it is within the legislature's authority to define the limits of the workers' compensation and occupational disease system. However, it is also within the legislature's authority to recognize the public service provided by firefighters and to join with other states that have extended a presumptive occupational disease recognition to firefighters.
(b) for occupational disease or presumptive occupational disease claims, because of the nature of exposure, workers should not be required to provide notice to employers of the disease as required of injuries and that the requirements for filing of claims reflect consideration of when the worker knew or should have known that the worker's condition resulted from an occupational disease or a presumptive occupational disease. The legislature recognizes that occupational diseases in the workplace are caused by events occurring on more than a single day or work shift and that it is within the legislature's the legislature has the authority to define an occupational disease or a presumptive occupational disease and establish the causal connection to the workplace."
"39-71-124. Applicability of Workers' Compensation Act -- exceptions. Except as provided in 39-71-407, 39-71-601, and 39-71-603 and as specified in [section 1], this chapter applies to injuries and occupational diseases."
"39-71-407. Liability of insurers -- limitations. (1) For workers' compensation injuries, each insurer is liable for the payment of compensation, in the manner and to the extent provided in this section, to an employee of an employer covered under plan No. 1, plan No. 2, and the state fund under plan No. 3 that it insures who receives an injury arising out of and in the course of employment or, in the case of death from the injury, to the employee's beneficiaries, if any.
(2) An injury does not arise out of and in the course of employment when the employee is:
(a) on a paid or unpaid break, is not at a worksite of the employer, and is not performing any specific tasks for the employer during the break; or
(b) engaged in a social or recreational activity, regardless of whether the employer pays for any portion of the activity. The exclusion from coverage of this subsection (2)(b) does not apply to an employee who, at the time of injury, is on paid time while participating in a social or recreational activity or whose presence at the activity is required or requested by the employer. For the purposes of this subsection (2)(b), "requested" means the employer asked the employee to assume duties for the activity so that the employee's presence is not completely voluntary and optional and the injury occurred in the performance of those duties.
(3) (a) An Subject to subsection (3)(c), an insurer is liable for an injury, as defined in 39-71-119, only if the injury is established by objective medical findings and if the claimant establishes that it is more probable than not that:
(i) a claimed injury has occurred; or
(ii) a claimed injury has occurred and aggravated a preexisting condition.
(b) Proof that it was medically possible that a claimed injury occurred or that the claimed injury aggravated a preexisting condition is not sufficient to establish liability.
(c) Objective medical findings are sufficient for a presumptive occupational disease as defined in [section 1] but may be overcome by a preponderance of the evidence.
(4) (a) An employee who suffers an injury or dies while traveling is not covered by this chapter unless:
(i) the employer furnishes the transportation or the employee receives reimbursement from the employer for costs of travel, gas, oil, or lodging as a part of the employee's benefits or employment agreement and the travel is necessitated by and on behalf of the employer as an integral part or condition of the employment; or
(ii) the travel is required by the employer as part of the employee's job duties.
(b) A payment made to an employee under a collective bargaining agreement, personnel policy manual, or employee handbook or any other document provided to the employee that is not wages but is designated as an incentive to work at a particular jobsite is not a reimbursement for the costs of travel, gas, oil, or lodging, and the employee is not covered under this chapter while traveling.
(5) Except as provided in subsection (6), an employee is not eligible for benefits otherwise payable under this chapter if the employee's use of alcohol or drugs not prescribed by a physician is the major contributing cause of the accident.
(6) (a) An employee who has received written certification, as defined in 50-46-302, from a physician for the use of marijuana for a debilitating medical condition and who is otherwise eligible for benefits payable under this chapter is subject to the limitations of subsections (6)(b) through (6)(d).
(b) An employee is not eligible for benefits otherwise payable under this chapter if the employee's use of marijuana for a debilitating medical condition, as defined in 50-46-302, is the major contributing cause of the injury or occupational disease.
(c) Nothing in this chapter may be construed to require an insurer to reimburse any person for costs associated with the use of marijuana for a debilitating medical condition, as defined in 50-46-302.
(d) In an accepted liability claim, the benefits payable under this chapter may not be increased or enhanced due to a worker's use of marijuana for a debilitating medical condition, as defined in 50-46-302. An insurer remains liable for those benefits that the worker would qualify for absent the worker's use of marijuana for a debilitating medical condition.
(7) The provisions of subsection (5) do not apply if the employer had knowledge of and failed to attempt to stop the employee's use of alcohol or drugs not prescribed by a physician. This subsection (7) does not apply to the use of marijuana for a debilitating medical condition because marijuana is not a prescribed drug.
(8) If there is no dispute that an insurer is liable for an injury but there is a liability dispute between two or more insurers, the insurer for the most recently filed claim shall pay benefits until that insurer proves that another insurer is responsible for paying benefits or until another insurer agrees to pay benefits. If it is later proven that the insurer for the most recently filed claim is not responsible for paying benefits, that insurer must receive reimbursement for benefits paid to the claimant from the insurer proven to be responsible.
(9) If a claimant who has reached maximum healing suffers a subsequent nonwork-related injury to the same part of the body, the workers' compensation insurer is not liable for any compensation or medical benefits caused by the subsequent nonwork-related injury.
(10) An Except for cases of presumptive occupational disease as provided in [sections 1 and 2], an employee is not eligible for benefits payable under this chapter unless the entitlement to benefits is established by objective medical findings that contain sufficient factual and historical information concerning the relationship of the worker's condition to the original injury.
(11) (a) For occupational diseases, every employer enrolled under plan No. 1, every insurer under plan No. 2, or the state fund under plan No. 3 is liable for the payment of compensation, in the manner and to the extent provided in this chapter, to an employee of an employer covered under plan No. 1, plan No. 2, or the state fund under plan No. 3 if the employee is diagnosed with a compensable occupational disease.
(b) The provisions of subsection (11)(a) apply to presumptive occupational disease if the employee is diagnosed and meets the conditions of [sections 1 and 2].
(12) An insurer is liable for an occupational disease only if the occupational disease:
(a) is established by objective medical findings; and
(b) arises out of or is contracted in the course and scope of employment. An occupational disease is considered to arise out of or be contracted in the course and scope of employment if the events occurring on more than a single day or work shift are the major contributing cause of the occupational disease in relation to other factors contributing to the occupational disease. For the purposes of this subsection (12), an occupational disease is not the same as a presumptive occupational disease.
(13) When compensation is payable for an occupational disease or a presumptive occupational disease, the only employer liable is the employer in whose employment the employee was last injuriously exposed to the hazard of the disease.
(14) When there is more than one insurer and only one employer at the time that the employee was injuriously exposed to the hazard of the disease, the liability rests with the insurer providing coverage at the earlier of:
(a) the time that the occupational disease or presumptive occupational disease was first diagnosed by a health care provider; or
(b) the time that the employee knew or should have known that the condition was the result of an occupational disease or a presumptive occupational disease.
(15) In the case of pneumoconiosis, any coal mine operator who has acquired a mine in the state or substantially all of the assets of a mine from a person who was an operator of the mine on or after December 30, 1969, is liable for and shall secure the payment of all benefits that would have been payable by that person with respect to miners previously employed in the mine if acquisition had not occurred and that person had continued to operate the mine, and the prior operator of the mine is not relieved of any liability under this section.
(16) As used in this section, "major contributing cause" means a cause that is the leading cause contributing to the result when compared to all other contributing causes."
Section 6. Codification instruction. [Sections 1 and 2] are intended to be codified as an integral part of Title 39, chapter 71, and the provisions of Title 39, chapter 71, apply to [sections 1 and 2].
Section 7. Contingent voidness. If a court finds any part of [this act] to be in violation of any clause of the U.S. or Montana constitutions relating to workers' compensation claims or a court through any other action or doctrine in law or equity applies the presumption in [sections 1 and 2] to another class of occupation other than firefighters, then [this act] is void.
Section 8. Effective date -- applicability. [This act] is effective July 1, 2019, and applies to presumptive occupational diseases diagnosed on or after July 1, 2019.
- END -
New language in a bill appears underlined, deleted material appears stricken.
Sponsor names are handwritten on introduced bills, hence do not appear on the bill until it is reprinted.
See the status of this bill for the bill's primary sponsor.
Prepared by Montana Legislative Services