A work injury is covered by the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act when the injury takes place in PA. However, even when a work injury occurs outside Pennsylvania, there are times PA has “jurisdiction” to hear the case.
One of those situations when PA workers’ comp laws can apply to a work injury taking place in another State is when the injured worker’s employment is “principally localized” in PA. Recently, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed what “principally localized” means in John D. Williams v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (POHL Transportation).
In this case, Mr. Williams, who lives in PA, was hired by a trucking company in Ohio. The trucking company had no offices or facilities in Pennsylvania. Mr. Williams’ mileage log showed that 38% of his mileage was within Pennsylvania, 32% was in Ohio and the remaining 30% was spread over 19 different States. The injury took place in Vermont.
The Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) found that PA had jurisdiction and granted the Claim Petition. The Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB) reversed, finding that Mr. Williams did not primarily work in PA, because the employer was located in Ohio, Mr. Williams was hired in Ohio and all assignments came from Ohio.
On appeal, the Commonwealth Court of PA reversed the WCAB and reinstated the granting of the Claim Petition as found by the WCJ. The Court found that the burden faced by Mr. Williams in this situation was to show that he was domiciled in PA and that “a substantial part” of his working time for employer was within PA. He did not have to show the work was “primarily” in PA.
Defendant argued that 38% (the time Mr. Williams worked in PA) could not be considered “a substantial part” of the working time, as 62% of the work was in a different State. The Court explained that the burden is not to show the work was primarily, or even mostly, in PA, but just to show it was “substantial.” Here, more than a third of the work was in PA, and more work was within PA than any other State. There was no argument that Mr. Williams lived in Pennsylvania. As such, the burden was met for jurisdiction to be in PA.