Philadelphia Workers Comp Attorney- Case Law Update Regarding Pension Offset

In Stepp v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (No. 2270 C.D. 2013, filed September 10, 2014), the Commonwealth Court decided whether an employer may take an offset against a claimant’s workers’ compensation benefits under Section 204 (a) of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act for pension benefits funded by its wholly-owned subsidiary. Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

Claimant began working for Marianna Scenery Hill Telephone Company in January 1973. In 2000, FairPoint acquired Marianna. Claimant continued to be an employee of Marianna, but the human resources department for all employees of all FairPoint subsidiaries was managed by FairPoint. It appeared that all employees in the FairPoint “family of subsidiaries” were covered by the same workers’ compensation plan or policy.

Claimant argued that the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board and Judge erred in granting FairPoint an offset for Claimant’s pension under Section 204 (a) of the Act because Marianna funded the pension plan. Claimant argues that FairPoint is not entitled to an offset for a pension plan funded by a different , but still existing, corporation.

In 1996, the legislature, in an effort to combat rising workers’ compensation costs, amended 204 (a) of the Act to allow employers an offset against workers’ compensation benefits for social security, severance, and pension benefits simultaneously received by an employee.  Note that the Court reminded us that the party seeking to change the status quo in a workers’ compensation case bears the burden of proof. Here, it’s the employer’s burden.

Claimant did not challenge the factual finding of the WCJ (Workers’ Compensation Judge- at the initial level) that Marianna funded 95.71% of Claimant’s pension. Instead, Claimant asserted that the Board erred because FairPoint, not Marianna, is “directly liable” for the payment of his workers comp benefits. As such, the argument is that only Marianna, no FairPoint, is entitled to the Section 204 (a) offset.

The Court pointed to Section 1929 of the Business Corporation Law of 1998 to highlight that when corporations merge, the surviving corporation succeeds to both the rights and liabilities of the constituent corporation. While this wasn’t a merger governed by Section 1929, the principles have direct application pursuant to prior case law. (LTV Steel Co., 754 A.2d 666).

As a practitioner who represents injured workers, I want to disagree with this case. However, and unfortunately, I believe the Court decided it correctly.

For more information about Pennsylvania Workers Comp, call or email Certified Work Comp Specialist, Michael Cardamone of The Cardamone Law Firm, LLC 7 days a week at (215) 206-9068 or Michael@CardamoneLaw.com

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Case Law Update: Can An Injured Worker Be Compensated For Ayurvedic Medical Treatment When Not Prescribed By A Licensed Pennsylvania Health Care Practitioner?

No. The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, in a recent Opinion, (Babu v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board) has ruled that an injured worker- even though a nurse herself, cannot be reimbursed for Ayurvedic treatment she underwent in India because it was not done vis-a-vis a referral or under the supervision of a licensed Pennsylvania health care practitioner.

The Court rejected the Claimant’s allegation that she herself was a supervising Pennsylvania health care practitioner. The Court noted that there was no evidence that Claimant was trained in massage therapy or that she exercised supervisory control over the practitioners in India.

This is a bad case for injured workers in Pennsylvania. The seminal issues should be whether the treatment is “reasonable, necessary, and related” to the accepted work injury. Claimant, to her credit, was trying an alternative form of medicine to get some relief from her work-related symptoms. What happens when a claimant goes out of state because a spouse changed jobs? Can the claimant now not get medical treatment if the provider isn’t licensed in Pennsylvania? That’s never been enforced before as far as I recall- as long as the provider bills the treatment on the prescribed forms in Pennsylvania, the treatment gets paid. Health practitioners like nurses, should be given some slack with supervising, to an extent, their own condition.

Let’s hope this Decision gets appealed and that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court takes the case.

For more information about Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation, call experienced and Certified Attorney Michael Cardamone of The Cardamone Law Firm, LLC 7 days a week at (215) 206-9068 or email Michael@CardamoneLaw.com

The Cardamone Law Firm, LLC

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