In this appeal from a decision of the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, a claimant whose work-related injuries included severe scarring of both legs challenged the constitutionality of Section 306(c)(22) of the Workers’ Compensation Act as applied to her claim. Section 306(c)(22) authorizes an award of specific loss benefits for serious and permanent disfigurement of the head, neck and face, but does not authorize specific loss benefits for disfigurement of the legs. BLF attorneys A. Richard Feldman and Lisa A Barton, together with co-counsel Audrey Copeland and Niki Ingram at the law firm of Marshall Dennehey, successfully showed that the challenged provision does not violate the Remedies Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution, nor does it violate the equal protection principles of the Pennsylvania and United States Constitutions.
In an unreported memorandum opinion, Senior Judge Leadbetter observed that Article III, Section 18 of the Pennsylvania Constitution authorized the Legislature to limit the remedies available to workers’ compensation claimants, “effectively ‘carving out’ an exception to the Remedies Clause.” For this reason, Commonwealth Court held that the limitation on specific loss benefits for permanent disfigurement in Section 306(c)(22) does not violate the Remedies Clause.
As to claimant’s equal protection arguments, Commonwealth Court observed that since the Workers’ Compensation Act confers a social welfare benefit, the rational basis standard of review would apply. Commonwealth Court found that the challenged provision promotes the legitimate state interest of cost containment for workers’ compensation benefits, and the limitations in the statute are reasonably related to achieving that interest.
Commonwealth Court accordingly affirmed the WCAB’s Order that denied claimant specific loss benefits for scarring of her legs.
Daquilante v. Mercy Catholic Medical Center (Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board) (No. 630 C.D. 2021, Pa. Commonwealth Ct. July 18, 2022).