On November 22, 2013, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the Superior Court decision in Tooey v. AK Steel., 81 A.3.d 851 (2013) which barred an employee’s common-law claim against their employer under the exclusivity provision of Section 303(a) of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act (“WCA”) (77 P.S. § 411(2)). This ruling will allow a former employee to bring a common-law claim against an employer when the employee has an occupational disease with a latency period greater than 300 weeks.
Prior interpretation of Section 301(c )(2) of the WCA, was that if a former employee had an occupational disease that manifested more than 300 weeks after the employee’s last date of employment, the employee would not be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits nor would the employee have the right to pursue a tort action against the employer. The Appellants argued and the Court agreed that the WCA’s purpose is remedial in nature and intended to benefit the worker; however, the 300 week period is unreasonable for occupational diseases which have a long latency period, such as mesothelioma. The Court ruled Plaintiff may file a common-law claim against their employers in these types of cases. Employers will retain all of their common-law defenses and the Plaintiff will bear the higher burden of proof in terms of causation and liability.
This PA Supreme Court ruling may have a significant impact on employers in PA who allegedly exposed their employees to an occupational disease, such as asbestos or Benzene.
The Garretson Resolution Group will continue to monitor developments, and will report future developments to the settlement community. For more information about this court case and other MSP compliance services, please see www.garretsongroup.com. If you have any questions please contact us at 704-559-4300.
To view the court case, please follow this link: