TT&H Attorneys Paul Pauciulo and John Morgan Win Dismissal of Claim and Penalty Petitions After Successful Commonwealth Court Appeal
November 29, 2022
Paul Pauciulo and John Morgan from TTH’s Philadelphia office recently convinced a Workers’ Compensation Judge to deny a Claim and Penalty Petition after the Commonwealth Court reversed and remanded the prior decision granting the petitions.
The Claimant showed up to the personal home of the owner of the alleged employer to fill out a job application and take a skills test to see if there was a job that he could do. After the Claimant arrived, but before filling out an application, he saw a playhouse being unloaded from the owner’s truck that belonged to the owner’s kids, and offered to help unload it. While he was helping to unload the playhouse, he slipped and fractured his ankle. A few weeks later, a claim petition and penalty petition arrived in the mail, surprising the alleged employer, who had not even received a job application from the Claimant, let alone hired him.
Initially, the Workers’ Compensation Judge concluded that the Claimant was an employee injured within the course and scope of employment, granted the claim petition, granted the penalty petition, and awarded unreasonable contest counsel fees, despite also finding in favor of the employer on the issue of full recovery and average weekly wage. Employer appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, which affirmed the Workers’ Compensation Judge. The Commonwealth Court reversed the Board. The court held that the Workers’ Compensation Judge did not issue a reasoned decision showing how he arrived at the conclusion that the Claimant was an employee injured in the course and scope of employment. The Court further held that the employer’s contest was per se reasonable, as the Workers’ Compensation Judge had ruled in the employer’s favor on several issues and invited further litigation of the employer/employee relationship issue. Finally, the Court reversed the penalty petition, holding that the employer did not violate the Workers’ Compensation Act. The Court remanded the matter back to the Workers’ Compensation Judge for a new decision on the issue of whether Claimant was an employee at the time of the injury. On remand, the WCJ denied and dismissed both the Claim and Penalty Petitions, finding that the Claimant was not an employee. This outcome means that the employer will now be able to seek reimbursement from the Supersedeas Fund for any benefits it was wrongfully ordered to pay under the original decision.
For questions about this issue, please contact John T. Morgan at 267.861.7580 x 8502 or email@example.com, or Paul Pauciulo at 267.861.7588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.