Equitable Resources v. WCAB (Thomas); 80 C.D. 2009; filed September 2, 2009; by Judge Cohn Jubelirer

An employer is obligated to pay for modifications to a claimant's bathroom, as well as repairs necessitated by the substandard construction of those modifications.

The claimant suffered a low back injury and was unable to use his legs. He was confined to a wheelchair as a result of his injuries. Following the claimant's injury, the employer loaned the claimant money to purchase a house. The employer made modifications to the claimant's bathroom to accommodate his work injuries, but they were poorly done by the contractor hired by the employer; as a result, a water leak caused damage to the bathroom and water leaked on the walls and under the floor. The employer provided for subsequent repair work, but the leakage issue was not resolved. The claimant asked the employer to provide further repairs, and the employer refused. Therefore, the claimant filed a penalty petition. The workers' compensation judge treated the penalty petition as a Review Petition. He granted the petition and ordered the employer to pay for the repairs of the bathroom. The workers' compensation judge characterized the modified bathroom as an "orthopedic appliance," obligating the employer under §306 (f.1) (1) (ii) of the Workers’ Compensation Act to repair the bathroom. The Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board affirmed. The Commonwealth Court also affirmed, rejecting the employer's argument that they only be held liable for the one-time cost of modifying the claimant's home. The court noted that the workers' compensation judge specifically found that the modifications to the claimant's bathroom were negligently performed by the contractor, a finding not challenged by the employer. Moreover, the claimant was not seeking additional modifications to his home, but rather, was seeking the employer to repair defects in the original modifications made by the contractor the employer selected.

Case Law Alert, 1st Qtr 2010