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A finding of full recovery in an administrative hearing for act 632 benefits collaterally estops the claimant from contesting a termination petition.

January 1, 2011
Commonwealth DOC v. WCAB (Wagner-Stover), No. 1133 C.D. 2008, filed October 1, 2010, by Judge Leavitt

The claimant worked as a manager in the commissary of the Camp Hill State Correctional Facility. She was identified on a "hit list" created by the prisoners and was verbally assaulted by inmates. She filed a psychiatric claim, which was accepted as compensable. She also received full salary in lien of compensation under Act 632. The employer received evidence of full recovery and sought termination of Act 632 benefits. An administrative hearing found the claimant to be fully recovered. The employer then filed a termination petition in the workers' compensation case and alleged collateral estoppel. The workers' compensation judge dismissed the petition, and the Appeal Board affirmed. However, the Commonwealth Court reversed, holding that collateral estoppel did bind the workers' compensation judge to find full recovery from the workers' compensation injury. The court noted that the issues were identical in the two proceedings: there was a final judgment on the merits, the parties were identical and there was a full opportunity to litigate the issue in the Act 632 process. Thus, the legal principle of collateral estoppel precluded a challenge to that finding in the termination petition.

Case Law Alert, 1st Qtr 2011

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