PA Supreme Court Clarifies No Suspension Of Benefits For Time Served Before A Conviction

A basis for stoppage of workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania is incarcerated post-conviction. The general rule under Section 306(a.1) of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act is that an employer is not required to pay wage loss benefits for any period during which an employee is “incarcerated after conviction.” Recently, in Sadler v. WCAB (Philadelphia Coca-Cola Company); No. 6 EAP 2020, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania dealt with an employer’s appeal regarding payment of compensation benefits during a period of pre-trial detention. Claimant suffered a work injury on July 2, 2012. The employer issued a Notice of Compensation Payable. Claimant was charged with a crime in New Jersey on August 13, 2013. Claimant could not post bail and remained in prison for 525 days until January 22, 2015 when he plead guilty. During the sentencing, claimant was awarded credit for time served and released from custody. Employer filed a Suspension Petition arguing that claimant was not entitled to benefits during his period of incarceration. The Workers’ Compensation Judge granted the Suspension Petition. The claimant appealed and the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board affirmed. The claimant appealed to the Commonwealth Court who reversed the WCAB holding that because the claimant spent no time in incarceration after his conviction, benefits were not permitted to be suspended. The employer appealed to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court rejected employer’s appellate argument and held that employer must pay benefits for periods when an employee is incarcerated before a conviction, even if the period of pre-conviction incarceration is applied to the length of post-conviction incarceration. The Supreme Court explained that the clear language of Section 306(a.1) of the Act only authorizes the suspension of workers’ compensation benefit payments during periods of incarceration served after a conviction. Further, the Supreme Court emphasized that there is no statutory language to permit a suspension of benefits during any period of incarceration served prior to conviction. In essence, the Supreme Court has ruled that an injured worker does not lose entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits during the time he was incarcerated prior to entry of a guilty plea in a criminal case.

Zachary M. Rubinich is a partner in our Philadelphia office. He 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. Zach has been appointed to the following American Bar Association Tort Trial and Insurance Practice (TIPS) leadership positions: Vice-Chair of the Litigation and Trial Practice Committee; Vice-Chair of the Appellate Advocacy Committee; member of the Ethics and Professionalism Standing Committee; and member of the CLE Board Committee.He is the Past Chair of the American Bar Association’s Tort Trial and Insurance Practice (TIPS) Workers’ Compensation and Employers’ Liability Law Committee from 2018-2019. He served as Vice-Chair of this committee for 2015-2016, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018. In addition, Zach served 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 eighth consecutive year in 2020. He has been selected as a 2020 Pennsylvania Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers. He was selected as a Pennsylvania Rising Star by Super Laws from 2010 to 2014. He was selected as an International Advisory Experts (IAE) Award recipient in 2019 for his accomplishments as a workers’ compensation attorney in Pennsylvania. In addition, he has been selected as a Fellow of the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Class of 2020.

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

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