Workers’ Comp:
Employee’s estate not able to pursue specific loss claim

(3/29/2004) -- The estate of a Sunoco employee, who was killed in a motor vehicle accident while on the job, is not eligible to pursue a claim for the loss of her amputated leg, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has ruled. In Estate of Rosalie Harris v. WCAB (Sunoco, Inc. and Esis/Signa), the Commonwealth Court on March 24 ruled that the family’s claim had no grounding under the Workers’ Compensation Act. In its decision, the court affirmed the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board that while Harris was still alive, she was eligible to pursue a specific loss benefit for her amputation, but this eligibility did not survive her death by transfer to the Estate.

“The Estate would have this Court create a new category of claim, i.e., payment of specific loss benefits to an estate, not a dependent, where death is caused by the work-related injury and not by another cause,” wrote Judge Hannah Leavitt. “This claim has no grounding in the language of the Act and is at odds with case law precedent. The General Assembly has spoken and we are so bound.”

The full text of the opinion is available on the appellate court’s web site