PENNSYLVANIA SUPREME COURT TO DECIDE IF INJURED WORKER WAS WITHIN THE COURSE AND SCOPE OF HIS EMPLOYMENT WHEN ATTEMPTING TO AID ANOTHER EMPLOYEE IN PENNSYLVANIA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CASE
In order for an injured worker in Pennsylvania to be eligible for Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation benefits, the injured worker must be within the course and scope of her employment. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has decided to hear an appeal from an employer to consider whether or not a worker injured when coming to the aid of another is within the scope of employment. In Pipeline Systems v. WCAB (Pounds), 120 A.3d 397 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2015), the Commonwealth Court found that the Claimant (Mr. Pounds) was entitled to Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation benefits when he was injured attempting to rescue another injured worker. This case is important because it will decide whether or not an employee can render aid to another, sustain injuries, and still have the ability to collect Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation for injuries resulting from that aid.
The facts are as follows. Claimant’s employer had contracted to work on and expand the Sewickley Borough waste facility. A Borough employee fell into a pit and managed to yell for help. Pounds and two other Pipeline employees attempted to rescue the Sewickley employee in the pit. In so doing, Claimant was overcome by the same Methane gas that had caused the Sewickley employee to fall into the pit. Mr. Pounds fell as he was attempting to climb out of the pit after he determined that the Borough employee had died. Claimant sustained injuries to his left leg, knee, foot, ribs, back, head and lungs. The Employer argued that the injured worker was not in the course and scope of his employment at the time he attempted to assist the co-worker. The Workers Compensation Judge (WCJ) ruled in favor of the injured worker.
The Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board affirmed the WCJ’s award of benefits finding that the Claimant was within the course and scope of employment when he was injured. The Commonwealth Court found that the Claimant was entitled to benefits because:
- The Claimant was an employee of Pipeline;
- The Claimant’s duties included “installing new pipeline at different job sites;”
- The Claimant was “engaged in the furtherance of the employers’ business affairs and was therefore in the course and scope of employment;”
- The Claimant was in the course and scope of employment when he responded to a call for help while attempting to render aid to another.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will now weigh in on the issue. If you were injured while assisting a co-worker or another individual while working, you should consult with an experienced Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation attorney to determine your options.