Torrey: COVID Adjudications, Compensability of Infectious Ailments Defined| Employees Compensation Information

from David B. Torrey

Wednesday, September 1, 2021 | 0

The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act does not provide any legal presumption of the cause of COVID-19. Infectious diseases, including COVID, were and are, from a legal point of view, indemnifiable.

David B. Torrey

They can be compensated within the framework of the two-pronged rehabilitation approach of our state. The first way of recovery from infectious diseases is regulated by the provisions of the Law on Occupational Diseases. Section 301 (c) (2) states that the term “injury” includes occupational diseases.

For the known list of these occupational diseases, reference is now made to Section 108 of the Act. They are paired with professions in which certain diseases have been proven or are viewed as special dangers. The sick employee who has worked in the associated occupation enjoys a rebuttable presumption of causation. The presumption is found in section 301 (e) of the law.

The second path to recovery from infectious diseases is found in the injury section itself, that is, section 301 (c) (1). In 1987 the Supreme Court declared that “breach” means an adverse or injurious change. This was found in the landmark case of Pawlosky v. WCAB (Latrobe Brewing Co.).

Of course, trying to prove the medical cause is another topic. In this regard, many doctors seem to shy away from assigning the cause of the work in cases of illness. For physicians, including sympathetic attending physicians, there are too many options for dangerous exposures to vouch for the cause in such cases. This seems to be the case in the area of ​​COVID.

At the time of this writing, there are two rulings from Pennsylvania Employee Compensation Judges that considered claims to sickness due to work-related exposure to COVID. In one case, the applicant (a nurse) failed to submit an expert opinion and her application failed. In the other case, the plaintiff (the widow of a correctional officer) presented such knowledgeable medical evidence and, supported by impressive evidence of exposure, prevailed in her lawsuit.

In a new article in the Pennsylvania Bar Association Workers’ Compensation Quarterly Newsletter, I explain the legal system of Pennsylvania, including how the long-standing General Presumption of Health (Section 301 (e)) has compensated for enumerated diseases over the years and gives a brief account of the two new COVID decisions at judge level.

Download the article here.

David B. Torrey is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and a Labor Compensation Judge for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry. This entry was posted with permission from the Workers’ Compensation Law Professors blog.

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