Wednesday, May 13, 2015

PA Supreme Court Reaffirms No Direct Right of Action for Subrogation Held by Employer or Worker's Comp Carrier

In its recent decision in the case of Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Dotmar Paper Co., 19 WAP 2014 (Pa. April 27, 2015)(Maj. Op. by Baer, J.)(Saylor, C.J., Dissenting), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court addressed the right of an employer, and/or the employer's worker's compensation carrier, to pursue a subrogation claim directly against a third party tortfeasor when the injured employee has not filed a claim against the tortfeasor or assigned his or her right to do so to another.

According to the Opinion, the injured employee was in the scope and course of his employment with Schneider National slipped and fell in the parking lot of the tortfeasor Defendant Dotmar Paper Company.  The employee was allegedly injured and was paid worker's compensation benefits by his employer's worker's compensation carrier.
When the injured employee did not sue the landowner, or otherwise assign his right to sue to anyone, the worker's compensation carrier took it upon itself to sue the landowner, seeking to recover the worker's compensation benefits it paid out to the injured employee.  The landowner defendant filed a demurrer essentially arguing that the worker's compensation carrier had no standing to bring such a suit under the law.

Both the Elk County trial court and the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that Section 319 of the Worker's Compensation Act did not permit such a claim and the insurer appealed.  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court's decision.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court reaffirmed the rule that, under Section 319 of the Worker's Compensation Act, a right of action is granted to the injured party employee.  The Court held that the employer's/worker's comp insurer's right of subrogation pursuant to Section 319 must be asserted through a single action brought in the name of the injured employee or included in any claim brought by the injured employee against the tortfeasor.

In this matter, the injured employee never pursued a case and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the employer and/or the worker's compensation carrier could not otherwise pursue any subrogation claim for worker's compensation benefits paid out to the injured employee related injuries caused by the tortfeasor.

The Majority Supreme Court Opinion can be viewed HERE.
Chief Justice Saylor's Dissent can be viewed HERE.

Madame Justice Todd's Dissent can be viewed at this LINK.

 

I send thanks to Attorney Scott Cooper of the Harrisburg, PA office of Schmidt Kramer for bringing this case to my attention.

No comments:

Post a Comment