Friday, March 31, 2023

Senate Completes Deliberate Intent, Amends Underage Marriage

Amid a day of over 50 bills either completing legislative action or going back to the House of Delegates, the Senate completed action on a long-debated deliberate intent bill and amended a bill that would have set the age for legal consent to marriage in West Virginia at 18.

The completed deliberate intent bill will limit non-economic damages in cases where injured workers can prove a deliberate intent by employers to cut corners and put them in harms way.

West Virginia’s workers compensation policies have long been established to cover liability for workplace injuries. However, if injured workers can meet a burden of proof that their employers acted with “deliberate intent,” they could be eligible for monetary claims in excess of what workers compensation provides.

House Bill 3270 will limit non-economic damages to whichever is higher: $500,000 per person or two times the economic damages in a case. Claims for lung damage in workplace settings would have a higher burden of proof applied under the legislation.

Much of the debate on this bill through the process centered around standards in the bill for occupational pneumoconiosis cases, or black lung, which usually develops from coal dust in the workplace.

The final bill mandates that an employee initiating a cause of action for deliberate intent must prove that the employer “fraudulently concealed or manipulated dust samples or air quality samples.”

Also on Friday, the Senators amended a bill to end underage marriage in West Virginia, instituting a floor of 16 years old and adding a provision that the marital partner of the minor may be no more than four years older.

As it came over from the House of Delegates, House Bill 3018 would restrict the ability of an underage person to obtain consent to marry through their parents, legal guardians or by petition to circuit court. In effect, the House version would have prevented all marriages under the age of 18.

The bill now heads back to the House of Delegates where that body will decide whether or not to accept the change.

The Senate is adjourned until tomorrow, March 11, at 10 a.m.

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