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Ordinarily, reinstating PA workers’ compensation benefits for an injured worker is not a high burden.  As we have previously discussed, usually benefits can be reinstated when the reason for the suspension of workers’ comp benefits no longer exists.  When the injured worker once again suffers a loss in earnings due to the work injury, through no fault of the injured worker. benefits are to be reinstated.  Case law tells us that a medical deposition is not even required in such a situation.

However, the relative burden of proof changes drastically when there has been a finding of “bad faith” with regard to a modified job offer.  Pennsylvania’s appellate courts have consistently held that all work is equal and that an injured worker cannot refuse a job offer for reasons unrelated to the work injury.  To do so would entail a finding of “bad faith,” which will stick to the injured worker for the life of the work injury.  A recent case in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania demonstrated the drastic effect a “bad faith” finding can have on an injured worker in PA.

In Tyson Shared Services, Inc. v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Perez), the injured worker suffered a significant injury to his right shoulder on December 3, 2014.  This required two surgical procedures.  Shortly after the second surgery, the injured worker was offered a modified-duty janitorial position, which was consistent with the physical restrictions set by the treating surgeon.  For reasons not discussed in the decision, the injured worker refused this job offer.  A Claim Petition was litigated, resulting in a decision by a Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) granting temporary total disability benefits, but then suspending the benefits as of the date of the modified-duty job offer.

Last week, we were fortunate enough to be in attendance as the Bucks County Bar Association presented a seminar addressing the three separate branches of government, as a celebration of Law Day.  Listening to presentations from each of the branches provided fascinating insight to see how government works, from the eyes of those who were there.  Sometimes, since we are litigation attorneys focused so deeply on each case, we lose sight of the bigger picture.

From the Judicial Branch, we heard from The Honorable Robert O. Baldi, with the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas in Doylestown.  Former Governor of Pennsylvania Mark Schweiker told us about his perspective from the Executive Branch.  Finally, Michael G. Fitzpatrick Esq. relayed his experiences in the Legislative Branch during his eight years with the U.S. House of Representatives before he retired.

While the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation system has its own Workers’ Compensation Judges, and holds hearings (depending on the county) in locations other than a county courthouse, the system still is a product of the three branches of government.  When the PA Workers’ Compensation Act was initially enacted in 1915, and in every addition, revision or amendment since, the three branches of government were involved.  Indeed, just recently, the Executive Branch kept the Legislative Branch from harming injured workers across the entire State of Pennsylvania (When Gov. Wolf vetoed the incredibly flawed SB 936).

We at Brilliant & Neiman LLC pride ourselves on providing excellent communication with our clients. We know the injured worker may have questions or concerns, and need to talk to their attorney. So, calls are always returned promptly, so we can be there for our clients.

With this in mind, we deeply apologize for not being available much today, where, in honor of Martin Luther King Day, some of our staff has been involved in giving service to the community. Making meals for the less fortunate, for Aid for Friends in Philadelphia, was a rewarding experience, though we hope we do not cause too much inconvenience to our clients.

Business will resume as normal, of course, tomorrow. Every client will again receive the level of service we strive to provide.

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