Chronic Pre-Existing Condition Compensable Under PA Workers’ Comp Where Condition Worsened by Working Conditions

It is well-settled law in PA that an aggravation of a pre-existing condition is compensable under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. However, depending on the condition at issue, the work injury may be seen to end when the worker returns to his or her baseline condition (or, in other words, when the “aggravation” ends and the injured worker is left with the same pre-existing condition).

This concept was explored by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in City of Philadelphia v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Whaley-Campbell). Here, the injured worker had a long history of allergies and respiratory symptoms for years. The air pollution at work aggravated her conditions and led to chronic conjunctivitis.

The workers’ comp insurance carrier filed a Petition for Termination, saying the work injury had resolved and that the injured worker had returned to baseline. The Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) denied the Petition. Upon further appeal, the workers’ comp insurance company argued the condition is a related to the pre-existing allergies and that a Termination of workers’ comp benefits is warranted.

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the decision of the WCJ, finding that a Termination is not warranted. The Court distinguished this case from the general rule, finding that, though the injured worker had allergies and respiratory problems for years, she never had conjunctivitis before the work-related injury. Since the injured worker continued to demonstrate the effects of the conjunctivitis, she was not fully recovered.