Tuesday, April 12, 2022

PA Superior Court Rules that a Worker's Compensation Carrier Does Not Have a Right To Force a Plaintiff To Take Action Against a Third Party Tortfeasor To Recover a Lien

In the case of Loftus v. Decker, No. 611 WDA 2021 (Pa. Super. March 10, 2022 Olson, J., Murray, J., and Pellegrini, J.) (Op. by Pellegrini, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court quashed an appeal by a worker’s compensation carrier who had appealed the trial court’s denial of its Motion to Intervene in a personal injury case.

The record before the Court indicated that the injured party was a school bus driver who was injured during a motor vehicle accident.  During the course of the underlying matter, the injured party incurred a worker's compensation lien in excess of $196,000. 

According to the Opinion, the worker’s compensation carrier attempted to intervene after the Plaintiff-employee filed a Writ of Summons against an alleged tortfeasor.

The appellate court found that §319 of the Worker’s Compensation Act did not give a party any right, directly or indirectly, to take any action against a third-party tortfeasor. As such, the appellate court found that a worker’s compensation carrier could not force a Plaintiff employee to seek a recovery to satisfy a worker’s compensation statutory lien.

The Superior Court also noted that the Order from which the worker’s compensation carrier had appealed was not an appealable collateral Order.  Notably, the Pennsylvania Superior Court stated that it was addressing the issue of whether the Order at issue was an appealable collateral Order within its decision on the merits.  As such, the Court in this decision addressed the merits of the issues presented in this case relative to the ability of the worker's compensation carrier to intervene in the action.

As noted, this appeal was quashed.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.  The Dissenting Opinion written by Judge Murray can be viewed HERE.

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (March 29, 2022).

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