The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently issued a decision indicating that a van modified to meets a quadriplegic claimant’s needs may fall within the definition of an “orthopedic appliance” that an employer is obligated to pay for under the provisions of the Pa. Workers’ Compensation Act (hereinafter “the Act”). In the case of Griffiths v WCAB (Seven Stars Farm, Inc.), the Court addressed an appeal by the claimant of a prior decision of the Pa. Commonwealth Court which held that the Act did not require the employer to pay for the purchase of the van.
The Supreme Court, in a decision issued on March 19, 2008, held that the van “is crucial to restore some small measure of the independence and quality of life that existed before the work injury.” The Court also noted that “the present restrictions on (claimant’s) life and mobility were caused by his service to his employer, and a modified van directly addresses and helps to remediate that very harm”. The Court thus concluded that a wheelchair accessible van qualifies under the broad definition of “orthopedic appliances” set forth within the Act.
The Court then took the analysis one step further noting that, while the Act is remedial in nature, “it does not authorize windfalls”. The Court remanded the case to the Workers’ Compensation Judge for findings of fact as to the claimant’s circumstances prior to his injury (whether he owned and regularly operated a vehicle, the age and type of the vehicle, its value, etc.).
If you have a question on your Workers’ Compensation claim, please feel free to call me (570-347-1011) or email me : firstname.lastname@example.org
Thomas P. Cummings, Esq.