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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules on Sufficient Notice of Injuries

After mixed results in the lower courts, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has ruled that an injured worker did adequately notify her employer of her work-related injuries, and she is thus entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits.  As an employee of Gentex Corp. since 1960, Anne Marie Morack inspected helmets made for the Air Force.  She experienced swelling in her hands beginning in 2003, and by January 2005, the pain had become so great that she informed a supervisor that she had to leave work.  Adhering to Gentex’s policy, Morack called for each of the next five days to inform her employer of her status, and on Feb. 2, 2005, she filed for short-term disability benefits, indicating on the application that she did not believe her disability was caused by a work-related injury.

However, a rheumatologist later found the injuries to be work-related, diagnosing her with bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome as well as other conditions from repetitive motion on the job.  After this diagnosis, Morack testified she called Gentex’s human resources department and left several voicemails when she didn’t receive an answer.  When Morack was released by her doctor to return to work with some restrictions in March 2005, court records show that Gentex did not have a position available meeting her restrictions and she was subsequently terminated.

When Morack filed a Workers’ Compensation claim in October 2006, the compensation judge ruled that she had in fact suffered a work-related injury.  He found that her complaints of pain, the short-term disability, and her voicemails gave her employer adequate notification of the injury. Gentex appealed to the Workers’ Compensation appeals board, which agreed with the original ruling. A state court, however, overturned the decision, finding that she did not give her employer adequate notice of her injury as required by law.  Finally, on July 20, 2011, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed upon finding the notice adequate. Although her methods of notification were not “letter perfect,” the Supreme Court found that she was protected under Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation law, which states, “a meritorious claim ought not, if possible, be defeated for technical reasons.”

This Pennsylvania case is significant precedent for future Workers’ Compensation claims that are appealed on the issue of adequate notice. Notification of an injury to your employer is absolutely required for a favorable resolution of your claim, and how the notice requirement is satisfied may become tricky, especially if the employer seems likely to dispute your claim. That is why contacting an experienced Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation attorney at Pearson Koutcher, LLP, should be your first call after reporting your injury per your employer’s procedures and then seeking medical attention. The workplace injury attorneys at Pearson Koutcher, LLP, can advise you in all the procedures necessary to a successful Workers’ Compensation claim, whether you work in Philadelphia or any other Pennsylvania or Delaware community. Contact our offices today to discuss your rights and responsibities under the law.