Saturday, August 30, 2003

Commonwealth Court Adheres Strictly To The Pleadings Where Equities Fall In Favor Of Claimant

In Lynette Anderson v. W.C.A.B. (Pennsylvania Hospital) the Claimant burned her hand and a Notice of Compensation Payable was issued for "right medial epicondylitis and right carpal tunnel syndrome". The Employer first filed a Termination/Modification/Suspension Petition alleging full recovery and job availability. The Claimant filed a Review Petition seeking review of the description of injury to include left carpal tunnel syndrome.

The Claimant's medical evidence (which the WCJ would accept) stated the Claimant suffers from bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome and right medial epicondylitis related to repetitive duties at work. The Employer, in response, filed a Review Petition, which, according to the Opinion, alleged only that the right epicondylitis was mistakenly listed on the NCP. Furthermore, according to the Opinion, the Employer's Claims Representative testified only the epicondylitis was mistakenly listed on the NCP.

The Commonwealth Court dismissed the Claimant's Review Petition because the left carpal tunnel was not from the burn injury. The Employer's Termination/Suspension/Modification was dismissed because Claimant's physician testified the Claimant's right carpal tunnel persisted and prevented her from doing the jobs. The Commonwealth Court granted the Employer's Review as to right medial epicondylitis based on the Claims Representative testimony and the fact that the condition was not related to the burn. However, the Court said the Employer didn't petition to review the description of right carpal tunnel, and therefore this stays on the NCP.

The Employer presumably will petition to review the right carpal tunnel condition. While the Court said it would be unfair for the Employer to carry the description of right carpal tunnel syndrome on the NCP until the statute expired then turn around and remove it under Section 413(a), the Court stated no reason it would not have done so, on Claimant's medical alone, had the Employer put it in the Review Petition.

Clearly, the equities fell in favor of the Claimant, who actually had the right carpal tunnel injury that was mistakenly put on the NCP for the burn injury. To perpetuate this result, however, the Court ultimately will have to create another equitable limitation to the WCJ's power under Section 413(a) to review an NCP or Agreement " any time..."

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