Attorney Erin Thompson, a partner in the firm’s Philadelphia office, recently obtained a victory on behalf of a boutique client in a workers’ compensation claim.
In this case, Claimant filed a Claim Petition, alleging a low back injury, as well as a Penalty Petition. Both petitions were sent to the Employer’s prior address and never sent directly to the carrier. Because service was made to an old address, the Employer did not receive notice of the Claim until several months had passed.
After Attorney Thompson was retained as defense counsel, Claimant made a Yellow Freight motion. Attorney Thompson was able to present credible fact witness testimony of a reasonable excuse for the late answer, specifically, testimony from the Employer regarding their proper address and about how mail is received at the facility. The Judge found the Employer’s evidence of a reasonable excuse to be credible, denied the Yellow Freight motion and allowed the Employer to present a full defense to all of Claimant’s allegations.
The primary defense to this claim was that no injury had occurred. This can be a difficult defense to successfully argue, however, Attorney Thompson was able to present fact witness evidence contradicting Claimant’s description of the alleged incident, along with documentary evidence establishing the fact that no incident was ever reported or witnessed.
Claimant’s credibility was paramount in this matter. Attorney Thompson was able to establish numerous inconsistencies in Claimant’s testimony, including the exact date of the alleged incident, whether there were any witnesses to the alleged injury and how the alleged injury was supposedly reported. It was further shown through fact witnesses that Claimant had a history of poor performance with warnings and reprimands prior to the alleged injury date and had been verbally insubordinate and had threatened to sue the employer on multiple occasions prior to the alleged injury. Claimant denied being insubordinate and indicated that the reprimands were due to people being “out to get him.” It was also shown that Claimant had requested leave for COVID around the time of the alleged incident and never mentioned a work injury despite being in active contact with Human Resources.
The Judge ultimately issued a Decision denying both the Claim and Penalty Petitions, finding Claimant completely non-credible in light of the evidence submitted by the defense. The Judge further found the Employer fact witnesses credible, noting that their testimonies established that no work injury was reported despite Claimant knowing how to report injuries; that Claimant had a history of insubordinate and threatening behavior; and that Claimant was appropriately terminated for cause. Because the factual evidence presented was so strong in showing that no injury occurred, the Judge did not have to address the medical evidence. The Judge held that the Employer was not liable for any wage loss, medical bills, penalties or costs in relation to this claim.
Attorney Thompson’s win underscores the importance of having employer-established protocols for reporting injuries, maintaining consistent business records and ongoing employer involvement throughout litigation. Although many employers hesitate to have their employees testify, the testimony can mean the difference between winning and losing a case. As highlighted in this case, the medical evidence presented, including medical depositions which are becoming increasingly more expensive, was not important because of the strength of the employer fact witnesses. Employers are urged to discuss presenting fact witnesses with their counsel to determine if it would be helpful in their case.
If you have any questions about this case, please contact Erin Thompson, Esq. at email@example.com or (610) 567-0700.