Thursday, December 12, 2002

The first sentence in the Supreme Court case of Leon E. Wintermeyer, Inc.and American General Group v. WCAB (Marlowe) is "This appeal concerns the application, in the administrative law setting, of what has been termed the capricious disregard standard of appellate review." In the end, this is a Newcomer v. WCAB (Ward Trucking) case. The Supreme Court ruled the WCJ properly dismissed a claim petition where the Employer rebutted the Claimant's history given to her doctor, rendering his opinion incompetent. This was a capricious disregard case because the Employer presented no medical evidence and the Commonwealth Court, finding the Claimant's medical internally credible and consistent, reversed the WCJ on the capricious disregard standard. The Supreme Court emphasized that both parties presented evidence, including cross-examination of the Claimant and Employer witnesses that rebutted her description of her job duties (it was a carpal tunnel case). Accordingly, substantial evidence supported the WCJ's decision. The capricious disregard standard did not apply. Perhaps foreshadowing Daniels, the Supreme Court did note, however, that Section 704 of the Administrative Agency Law will not be interpreted to make judicial review unavailable when substantial evidence supports an agency's factual findings, but it is clear beyond doubt that its conclusions are based on capricious disregard of other evidence, for example, if the agency expressly refused to resolve conflicts in the evidence and make essential credibility determinations.

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