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Recent Court Decisions Impacting Pennsylvania Workers' Comp - Part 2

Last week we discussed two recent Pennsylvania cases dealing with workers' compensation issues. This week we will highlight two additional decisions.

In Rhonda Walker v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board a worker fell at work and injured her nose. This resulted in the woman having a slightly crooked nose, and the woman filed a disfigurement claim.

In Pennsylvania, a person is entitled to a specific loss claim for disfigurement if the injury caused a permanent, unsightly scar above the clavicle. The issue for this case was whether the woman's slight nose disfigurement entitled her to specific loss for a disfigurement claim.

The court ruled that having a slightly crooked nose is not considered unsightly, and therefore the woman was not entitled to compensation for a disfigurement claim. The case will impact future claims when a worker's scar or disfigurement is less noticeable. In such cases, workers' disfigurement claims may be completely denied.

Another important decision was the Six Ls Packing Company v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board. In this case a large farming company hired various truck carriers to transport its produce. A truck driver became injured and filed a claim against the owner of the truck and independent contractor of the farming company.

Since the truck owner lacked workers' compensation coverage the driver then filed against the farming company. The question was whether the farming company was liable as a statutory employer. The statutory employer theory is generally used in construction cases, where injured workers can sue a general contractor if a subcontractor does not have insurance.

The court ruled the farming company was liable; and that businesses that regularly contract with others for work need to ensure their subcontractors carry workers' compensation insurance. Otherwise, the business employing the subcontractors will be liable for claims. This broadening of the statutory employer theory is a victory for Pennsylvania injured workers.

Source: Claims Journal, "Pennsylvania Workers' Comp Case Update," Denise Johnson, July 30, 2012.

Our firm handles workers' compensation cases. For further information please visit our Pennsylvania workers' compensation page.

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