The Pennsylvania Superior Court has held that a Five-year Statute of Limitations applies when charges are filed against an employer who fails to secure a policy for Workers\’ Compensation insurance. The Court noted that the customary Two-year period of Limitations would impair the “Commonwealth\’s ability to prosecute offensesâ€ and that criminal charges can stand as long as they are filed within five years of the alleged infraction.
In reaching this decision, the Court reversed a trial court\’s ruling that had dismissed the charges for being filed after a two-year statute of limitations had expired.
According to the opinion in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Corban Corporation (decided 10/4/06), the injured worker, Elmer Kennedy, suffered serious burns while working as a hard laborer for Corban in December 2000. At the time of the injury, Corban did not have Workers\’ Compensations Insurance due to its failure to pay premiums, a fact verified by Corban\’s insurance agent. After Kennedy\’s workers’ compensation claim was denied by the insurance company for lack of coverage, the Lehigh County Insurance Fraud Task Force undertook an investigation. In September 2004, the Task Force filed a criminal complaint asserting seven counts of third-degree felony charges against Corban. Corban filed a motion requesting dismissal of these complaints on the grounds that the two-year statute of limitations set forth in 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5552 had expired in September 2002, prior to the Commonwealth\’s complaint.
The Northhampton County Court of Common Pleas sided with Corban. The Superior Court, however, has reversed, noting that the language in the Workers\’ Compensation Act regarding the five-year limitations period (77 P.S. § 1039.12) more accurately applies to Corban\’s violations than that outlining the two-year limitations period. The case has now been remanded to the Northampton County Court for further proceedings.
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