|Posted:||October 4, 2019 11:25 AM|
|From:||Senator Camera Bartolotta|
|To:||All Senate members|
|Subject:||Workers’ Compensation and Third-Party Lawsuits – Whitmoyer Remedy|
|I will soon introduce legislation to clarify vague language in the Worker’s Compensation Act in light of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Whitmoyer v. WCAB (Mt. Country Meats).
When an employee is injured on the job, the Workers’ Compensation Act permits the employee to receive compensation for lost wages and medical expenses from the employer without showing any fault by the employer. In some cases, however, the employee also files a lawsuit against a third party, such as the manufacturer of faulty equipment, that is responsible for the injury. In those circumstances, the Workers’ Compensation Act states that the employer is entitled to recoup the amount of workers’ compensation benefits paid from the amount recovered in a lawsuit or settlement. When the lawsuit or settlement results in an award of money that exceeds the amount of workers’ compensation benefits paid, the employee keeps the excess amount of money, but only as an advance payment on future “installments of compensation” from the employer in worker’s compensation benefits.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reasoned that lost wages are easily included in the term “installments,” because wages are paid in installments. Employers may, therefore, recoup benefits for lost wages from the employee’s award in a lawsuit or settlement. The court, however, explained that medical expenses arise as treatment is provided and not in “installments.” The Supreme Court, therefore, held that employers could not recoup benefits paid for medical expenses from the proceeds of a lawsuit or settlement. As a result, an employee could receive a large verdict or settlement in a lawsuit from the third party responsible for the injury, and also continue to require the employer to pay for the employee’s medical costs.
While it has long been the policy of the Commonwealth to make sure that injured workers receive benefits for lost wages and medical expenses after a work-related injury, it has never been the intent of the Workers’ Compensation Act to permit the employees to “double dip” in the way that the Supreme Court’s decision allows them to do. My legislation will, therefore, remove the word “installments” to make clear that employers may recoup the benefits paid to an employee for medical expenses when the employee wins a verdict or settlement against a third party.
Please join me in sponsoring this legislation to clarify the original intent of the Workers’ Compensation Act.
Introduced as SB922