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Workers' Compensation Appeal Board

Overview

Hearing List for November 20, 2019 in Harrisburg

Commissioners of the Board

The Workers' Compensation Appeal Board decides appeals from the Decisions and Orders of the approximately 90 workers' compensation judges (WCJs) throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in cases involving injuries, occupational diseases, and fatal claims arising in the course of employment. The Board hears argument in numerous locations including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Scranton, and Erie. The Board’s scope of review is limited to determining whether an error of law was committed or whether the decision of the WCJ is supported by substantial and competent evidence.

In addition to its appellate work, the Board receives and determines petitions for counsel fees, petitions for rehearings, miscellaneous requests, commutations, guardianships involving workers’ compensation benefits, and petitions for supersedeas (both before the Board and Commonwealth Court). Most of these latter petitions can be decided on the petition and answer alone, without argument, although some cases do require a hearing before the Board or referral to a WCJ for the purpose of making findings of fact. In a given year the Board will decide 600 to 700 petitions for supersedeas which are requests for a stay of the WCJ’s decision pending appeal, approximately100 counsel fee petitions, and issue more than 1,000 appellate opinions. The opinions of the Board are published commercially and compiled in the Workers’ Compensation Law Reporter.

Appeals filed with the Board are listed for argument in accordance with an annual schedule.

The Central Office of the Board in Harrisburg acts as a prothonotary. This office receives and dockets all appeals and petitions and prepares hearing lists, notices, calendars, and records. Appeals are assigned to individual Commissioners of the Board for review and preparation of an opinion and order.

History

Created in 1915 as a quasi-judicial administrative body, the Workmen's Compensation Board was established to hear appeals from decisions of Workmen's Compensation Referees. At that time, the workmen's compensation referees were under the jurisdiction of the Board and acted as its agents in conducting evidentiary hearings, findings of fact, making legal conclusions, and deciding petitions. On appeal, the Board could substitute its own findings and conclusions for those of the referee and make its own determination from the evidence in the record. Thus, the Workmen's Compensation Board was the final finder of fact in workmen's compensation cases.

In 1972, extensive amendments to the Administrative Code and the Workmen's Compensation Act removed the referees from the jurisdiction of the Board and placed them under the supervision of the Secretary of Labor and Industry. In effect, this change also removed from the Board its original jurisdiction over petitions assigned to Referees, now known as workers’ compensation judges. In addition, the amendments provided that the Board could not change or reverse a finding of a referee if it was based on competent evidence, thereby making the referee the final finder of fact in such cases. In keeping with these revisions, the Board was, in turn, transformed into an appellate body; its name changed to the "Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board." In 1996, with Act 57, the Board's name was again changed, becoming the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board.

In 2011, the Department of Labor and Industry embarked on a workers’ compensation technology upgrade, which resulted in the Workers’ Compensation Automation and Integration System (WCAIS). Through WCAIS, the Board can receive appeals, petitions, briefs and motions in addition to circulating and voting on opinions. This upgrade has enabled the Board to reduce the time from filing an appeal to final decision. Information on WCAIS can be found here.

The Commissioners of the Board are:

Alfonso Frioni, Jr., Esq., Chairman
Sandra D. Crawford, Esq. Thomas P. Cummings, Esq.
William I. Gabig, Esq. Robert A. Krebs, Esq.
David H. Wilderman, Esq. James A. Zurick, Esq.

The Secretary of the Board is Steven Loux, Esq.

Law

PA Workers’ Compensation Act

Resources

Administrative Code (note Title 34, Chapter 111) http://www.pacode.com
General Services (PA Manual) http://www.dgs.pa.gov
PA Bar Association (for Attorney Referral)  
  Allegheny County http://www.acba.org
  Dauphin County http://www.pabar.org
  Philadelphia County http://www.philabar.org
PA Bulletin http://www.pabulletin.com