On March 30, 2010, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined to hear the employer’s appeal in Philadelphia Gas Works v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Amodei), which means that the en banc (full court) decision of the Commonwealth Court has been affirmed and is the law of Pennsylvania. In Amodei, the Commonwealth Court ruled that, when an employer seeks an offset from workers compensation benefits for pension benefits paid to a claimant, the offset must be calculated based upon the net amount of the benefits received by the employee. This unanimous decision effectively overruled Steinmetz v. Workers Compensation Appeal Board (Cooper Power Systems), 858 A.2d 182 (Pa.Cmwlth. 2004). Our office represented the claimant, John Amodei, in Philadelphia Gas Works v. Workers Compensation Appeal Board (Amodei), No. 350 C.D. 2008 (Pa.Cmwlth., February 4, 2009). In fact, we were retained by the claimant specifically to handle his appeal in this case, which applies to all pension offsets asserted against injured workers benefits and will eliminate the inequity that resulted when injured workers benefits were reduced by the gross amount of their pensions rather than the net.
Of note, following the Amodei decision, we were retained and serve as co-counsel with Marla Joseph, Esquire in Commonwealth v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Harvey), another workers’ compensation/pension offset case. We are awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision in this case, which addresses how pension offsets are calculated for workers in defined benefit plans. In Harvey, the Commonwealth Court ruled against the injured worker and we were able to convince the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to hear the case (it denied requests to do so many times before). This is another example among many of cases in which we represented a successful party on appeal, were specially retained to handle an appeal, or otherwise were consulted as appellate counsel. Most notably, in McElheney v. Workers Compensation Appeal Board (Kvaerner Phila. Shipyard), 940 A.2d 351 (Pa. 2008), we authored the injured worker’s brief with counsel, Steiner, Segal, Muller & Donan. In McElheney, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that a worker injured while on a ship in a graven dry dock was not injured upon the navigable waters of the United States, and was therefore entitled to benefits under boththe federal Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. The Court ruled that the graven dry dock, which by definition was cut and dug out of the land, was not within the limits of the navigable waters of the United States.