Workers’ Comp In-Cites
Welcome to the latest edition of Schaff & Young's Workers' Comp In-Cites. Designed to provide our clients with practical insight, Workers' Comp In-Cites outlines recent developments in Pennsylvania workers' compensation law and explains how those decisions impact our clients and their cases. Barbara Young, Michael Schaff and the other attorneys at Schaff & Young, P.C. are always available to discuss these cases – or any other questions or concerns you might have. Just give us a call at (215) 988-0090 or send an email to We look forward to hearing from you.

Employers Must Prove Illegal Immigrant Status in Order to Suspend Benefits

That’s the ruling of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Cruz v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Kennet Square Specialties and PMA Management Corp.). In particular, the Court held that an employer seeking to suspend an illegal worker’s benefits has the burden to prove that the injured employee's loss of earning power was caused by the injured employee's lack of U.S. citizenship or other legal work authorization. Additionally, a claimant's invocation of his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination is insufficient evidence, on its own, to prove the alleged lack of legal authorization to be employed in the U.S. Justice Saylor filed a concurring opinion, in which Chief Justice Castille and Justice McCaffrey joined. Justice Eakin filed a concurring and dissenting opinion, in which Justice Stevens joined, arguing that a claimant should be required to prove he is legally entitled to work in the U.S. to obtain benefits.

August 2014 Edition
Volume VIII
Number 8

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Employer Has Burden of Proof When Seeking to Modify Benefits Based on Earning Capacity

In Simmons v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Powertrack International), the Commonwealth Court held that, when an employer seeks to modify a claimant's benefits based on earning capacity under Section 413 of the Workers' Compensation Act, 77 P.S. § 772, the employer must demonstrate that the claimant's symptoms have improved sufficiently to re-enter the workforce. The employer does not need to prove that claimant's diagnoses have changed since the last proceeding.

Court Affirms the Need for a Reasoned Decision

While many cases have seemingly approved virtually any language as sufficient for a Workers’ Compensation Judge’s decision to be considered “reasoned,” the Commonwealth Court refused to do so in Cucchi v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Robert Cucchi Painting, Inc.). Rather, the Court said that, under Section 422(a) of the Workers' Compensation Act, 77 P.S. § 834, a Workers' Compensation Judge must issue a reasoned decision that explains, in detail, the objective bases for the WCJ's credibility findings regarding doctors or claimants. The WCJ may not simply state that testimony was "not convincing."

Carrier Not Required to Serve Utilization Review

Under Section 127.476 of the Workers' Compensation Act Medical Cost Containment Regulations, 34 Pa. Code § 127.476, an employer is not required to serve a Utilization Review determination on the claimant or claimant's counsel. Instead, the service requirement is imposed on the Utilization Review Organization. Thus, an employer does not violate the Workers' Compensation Act, 77 P.S. §§ 1-1041.4, 2501-2708, by failing to serve a UR determination on the claimant. So ruled the Commonwealth Court in Marek v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Logistics Express, Inc.).

No Vicarious Liability for Outrageous Conduct

Affirming that some conduct is so extreme and unforeseeable as to preclude liability against an employer, the Superior Court, in Spitsin v. WGM Transportation, Inc., ruled that the doctrine of respondeat superior does not create vicarious liability for an employer when, to carry out his job duties, an employee uses force that is so violent and excessive that an employer would not reasonably foresee its use.