Thursday, August 19, 2021

Worker's Compensation Carrier Allowed to Intervene in Third Party Action to Recover Lien

 

In the case of Gleason v. Alfred I. Dupont Hospital, No. 1872 EDA 2020 (Pa. Super. Aug. 5, 2021 McLaughlin, J., King, J., Pellegrini, J.) (Op. by Pellegrini, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court permitted a worker’s compensation carrier to intervene in a third party personal injury litigation as part of the worker’s compensation carrier’s efforts to protect its subrogation rights on its lien by challenging the parties’ allocation of the settlement proceeds.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff-husband sustained burn injuries as a result of a work-related event.

During the course of the third party litigation, the injured Plaintiff entered into a sizeable settlement with one of the alleged tortfeasor Defendants. A petition was then filed by the Plaintiff with the court for court approval of that settlement, including the allocation of 60% of that settlement to the loss of consortium claim.

The worker’s compensation carrier filed a Petition to Intervene in order to protect its subrogation rights. The worker’s compensation carrier was asserting that the allocation of a substantial portion to the settlement funds to the loss of consortium claim was unfair and was designed to preclude the worker’s compensation carrier from fully recovering on its subrogation rights.

When that initial Petition to Intervene filed by the worker’s compensation carrier was denied, the worker’s compensation carrier eventually filed a second Petition to Intervene which was also denied. An appeal followed.

As noted above, on appeal, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that the worker’s compensation should have been allowed to intervene in a third party action to protect its interests.

The court found that the requirements of the Collateral Order Doctrine had been met under the case presented such that the worker’s compensation carrier should be entitled to intervene.

The court noted that, where the worker’s compensation carrier had paid nearly a $1 million dollars on behalf of the injured party as a result of the workplace accident, justice required that it be allowed to intervene in a case where the settlement agreement against the third party tortfeasor was structured in a manner that limited the worker’s compensation lien to only about a third of the amount of the lien.

As such, the Superior Court found that the trial court had abused its discretion in denying the intervention sought by the worker’s compensation carrier as that intervention was necessary to fully protect the worker’s compensation carrier’s subrogation rights and rights to challenge the apportionment of the settlement proceeds in the third party matter relative to the loss of consortium claim.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Thomas B. Helbig of Helbig Mediation and Arbitration for bringing this case to my attention.

Source of Image (not of structure in question):  Photo by Markus Spiske on unsplash.com.

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