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A workers' compensation judge has discretion under § 314 (a) of the Act to suspend wage loss and/or medical benefits of a claimant who refused to attend an independent medical examination.

April 1, 2010
Giant Eagle, Inc. v. WCAB (Givner), 813 C.D. 2009, filed November 18, 2009; by Judge Butler

In a case of first impression, the Commonwealth Court held that a workers' compensation judge has discretion under §314 (a) of the Act to suspend medical benefits, in addition to wage benefits, where a claimant refuses to attend an independent medical examination ("IME") in violation of a workers' compensation judge's order. The employer sought an IME in the context of a Modification/Review Petition, which the workers' compensation judge ordered. When the claimant failed to attend the exam, the employer filed a suspension petition. The workers' compensation judge granted the petition and suspended the claimant's wage loss benefits, but the employer also sought a suspension of medical benefits. The workers' compensation judge and the WCAB affirmed the suspension, and the employer appealed. The Commonwealth Court acknowledged that the issue of whether "compensation" includes medical benefits as well as wage loss benefits under §314 (a) had not been decided previously. Section 314 (a) provides that the refusal without reasonable cause to submit to an IME ordered by a workers' compensation judge "shall deprive [the claimant] of the right to compensation." Since "compensation" under §413 (a) has been interpreted to apply to wage loss benefits only, and the case law has not considered the issue under §314 (a), the court held that the workers' compensation judge and the WCAB did not commit an error of law in finding that medical benefits could also be suspended. In its conclusion, however, the court held that under §314 (a), a workers' compensation judge has the discretion to suspend both medical and wage loss benefits. In a footnote the court noted that there may be cases where it is appropriate to suspend both wages and medical benefits, such as where the claimant already has his wage loss benefits suspended and persists in violating the Act.

Case Law Alert - 2nd Qtr 2010

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