Patricia Reutzel v. WCAB (Allegheny General Hospital); 448 C.D. 2009; filed October 20, 2009; by Judge Leadbetter

Two separate and distinct work injuries do not equal two consecutive 500-week periods of partial disability.

The claimant was a registered nurse at Allegheny General Hospital. On February 24, 1996, she suffered a work-related injury to her shoulder, which was accepted via a notice of compensation payable ("NCP"). The claimant returned to work performing modified duty and was placed on partial disability benefits. On May 30, 1997, she suffered a work-related injury to her low back, but continued to work under the February 1996 injury restrictions. The May 1997 injury was recognized via an NCP. In 2003, the claimant underwent low back surgery. She went out on total disability, but at the 1996 rate. As of June 1, 2006, she had received 500 weeks of partial disability for the 1996 injury. The employer stopped paying benefits pursuant to §306 (b) (1). The claimant filed a reinstatement petition alleging that, although the 500 weeks were up for the 1996 injury, they were not up for the 1997 injury. Furthermore, the 500-week period for the 1997 injury should begin after the 1996 injury ended. The workers' compensation judge determined that the period lapsed 500 weeks after the 1997 injury. The claimant had been paid at the 1996 rate and was entitled to the difference between the 1996 and 1997 rate. The workers' compensation judge also assessed a 50% penalty against the employer. The Appeal Board agreed, but reversed on the issue of the penalty. The claimant then appealed to the Commonwealth Court, claiming that she is entitled to a consecutive and not concurrent running of the 500-week periods. The Appeal Board was affirmed by the Commonwealth Court. The claimant is not entitled to consecutive 500-week periods of benefits.

Case Law Alert, 1st Qtr 2010