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Favorable Order from Commonwealth Ct. of PA on extra-territorial jurisdiction issue in WC case

Rawle & Henderson LLP obtained a favorable Opinion and Order from the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania on January 18, 2019, holding that a Claimant’s employment, at the time of his injury, was not principally localized in Pennsylvania, and therefore, Claimant’s injury was not compensable under Section 305.2(a)(1) of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act.  Zachary M. Rubinich, a partner in the Firm’s Philadelphia office, represented the employer in this matter.

The Commonwealth Court denied Claimant’s Petition for Review and affirmed the Decision of the Workers’ Compensation Judge and Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB). During the appellate litigation, the key issue was whether Claimant’s employment was principally localized in Pennsylvania where Claimant worked exclusively at and was injured at employer’s Delaware facility.

Claimant testified, presented evidence and argued that he had an ongoing employment relationship for employer in Pennsylvania based upon spending a substantial part of his working time in the service of the employer in Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth Court rejected this legal argument. Instead, the Court relied upon testimony from two employer fact witnesses who explained that Claimant was hired in Delaware, his job was performed exclusively in Delaware, Employer has a distinct job site in Delaware, Claimant was required to take pre-employment drug screening test in Delaware, Claimant submitted to a background check in Delaware, Claimant participated in Delaware site-specific trainings and orientation, was paid a Delaware trade wage rate, worked a limited project in Delaware and would be laid off at end of the project.

Importantly, the Commonwealth Court found that Claimant worked solely in Delaware at the time of his injury and noted the temporary nature of the job to determine there was no continuous employment relationship. The Commonwealth Court concluded that the evidence of record and credible testimony of employer’s fact witnesses supported a determination that at the time of injury, Claimant worked exclusively in Delaware and that no ongoing relationship existed between Claimant and Employer such that Pennsylvania lacked jurisdiction over Claimant’s workers’ compensation claim under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act.

So, the Court affirmed the Workers’ Compensation Judge and WCAB’s denial and dismissal of the Claim Petition and Penalty Petition filed by Claimant. This holding by the Commonwealth Court is significant because it confirms that the focus of Section 305.2 of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act is on the Claimant’s employment, not on the employer, to determine if employment was principally localized in Pennsylvania.

Zachary M. Rubinich focuses his practice on the defense of insurance carriers, self-insured entities and third-party administrators against workers’ compensation claims in Pennsylvania. Based on his extensive experience, the Pennsylvania Bar Association Workers’ Compensation Law Section has certified him as Specialist in the practice of workers’ compensation law. Zach has handled all aspects of litigation before workers’ compensation judges, the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, the Commonwealth Court and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  He routinely counsels employers, insurance carriers and third party administrators on claims management, workplace safety, return-to-work programs, employment practices and risk management. Zach has been appointed the Chair of the American Bar Association’s Tort Trial and Insurance Practice (TIPS) Workers’ Compensation and Employers’ Liability Law Committee for 2018-2019. He served as Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Workers’ Compensation and Employers’ Liability Law Committee for 2015-2016, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.  In addition, Zach was appointed as Vice-Chair of the 2017-2018 American Bar Association Standing Committee for Diversity and Inclusion. Zach has been rated AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell for the seventh consecutive year in 2019. He has been selected as a 2019 Pennsylvania Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers. He was selected as a Pennsylvania Rising Star by Super Lawyers from 2010 to 2014.

Zach can be reached directly at: (215) 575-4340 • zrubinich@rawle.com