As we have discussed in the past, the assessment of unreasonable contest attorney fees is a rare finding in PA workers’ compensation. This is when the workers’ comp insurance carrier is ordered to pay the fees of the injured worker’s attorney. Even on those unusual occasions when a Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) orders the payment of unreasonable contest attorney fees, often this is reversed by the appellate courts. Which is why a recent decision of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania was so refreshing.
In Gabriel v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Procter and Gamble Products Company), the injured worker suffered a puncture injury to his arm. Notice was given to the employer by the injured worker within 120 days, as required under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act (Act). The injured worker received medical treatment, and the workers’ comp insurance company paid for such treatment. However, the insurance carrier failed to issue any document, such as a medical-only Notice of Compensation Payable (MONCP), as would be required by the Act (the Act provides that the insurance carrier accept or deny an injury, issuing the appropriate form, within 21 days).
The injured worker filed a Claim Petition, to which the insurance carrier filed an Answer, denying all of the allegations in the Claim Petition. The matter was fully litigated before a WCJ. After the final hearing before the WCJ, the insurance carrier finally issued a MONCP (this around two years after the occurrence of the injury).