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Pennsylvania Court Finds Employer Received Notice of Amendment to Employee’s Original Work-Related Injury

In a recent case before the Commonwealth Court, the court addressed whether an injured employee’s diagnosed shoulder injury was to be included in the original claim for the work-related accident. The court stated that an amendment is corrective if it adds a diagnosis that is part of the original work injury. But if the workers’ compensation claimant develops another new injury as a consequence of the first, original injury, there must be a review petition in order to add that injury to the Notice of Compensation Payable.

Melissa Walter worked as an Emergency Medical Technician for Evangelical Community Hospital.  While lifting a patient, Ms. Walter injured her left shoulder. The Hospital described the work injury as a left shoulder sprain and issued a Notice of Compensation Payable. Ms. Walter underwent shoulder surgery.

Ms. Walter underwent two shoulder surgeries, and then the Hospital filed a petition to terminate benefits based on Ms. Walter’s full recovery from her original work injury. The Hospital based this termination on an independent medical examination. Ms. Walter denied that she was completely recovered, and the petition was assigned to a workers’ compensation judge.

During the hearing on the petition, the Hospital presented the deposition of a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, who stated that Ms. Walter was magnifying her symptoms and that she had fully recovered from her work injury.

Ms. Walter testified that she suffers constantly and takes pain medication. She also stated that the work injury was the only injury she had sustained in her left shoulder.  She explained that she did not believe she could perform work in any capacity.

The workers’ compensation judge found that Ms. Walter had not fully recovered from her work injury, although she had magnified certain symptoms.  The judge expanded the work injury to include the left suprascapular neuropathy, which continued to cause Ms. Walter pain.

The Hospital appealed the workers’ compensation judge’s addition of the injury to the work injury description. The Board agreed and reversed this part of the lower court decision.

The appellate court reviewed the section of the Workers’ Compensation Act that provides for amending a Notice of Compensation Payable if it is incorrect.  The issue was whether the Hospital received notice of the corrective amendment. Ms. Walter argued that the Hospital had adequate notice of the amendment because it was made clear on the first day of the hearing.

The appellate court reviewed the deposition testimony and found that the Hospital had notice that Ms. Walter’s doctor considered her suprascapular neuropathy to be part of the original work injury.  The Hospital argued that the amendment to the Notice of Compensation Payable was not corrective, and therefore it could not be amended without a review petition.

But the court stated an amendment is deemed corrective if it adds a diagnosis that is part of the original work injury.  This was a corrective amendment because Ms. Walter’s doctor stated that the work injury caused her suprascapular nerve injury.  The addition of this work injury was not a consequential condition.

The Board erred in reversing the workers’ compensation judge’s order amending the Notice of Compensation Payable to include the left shoulder injury.  The appellate court reversed the order in that respect.

The workers’ compensation attorneys at Needle Law diligently advocate on behalf of injured employees throughout the state. If you were injured in the course and scope of your employment, contact our office today at 570-344-1266.

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