A construction worker who was severely injured during an ill-fated rescue attempt at a job site can’t be denied workers compensation, a Commonwealth Court panel ruled Tuesday.
The court’s decision rejected arguments by Franklin Pound’s employer that Pound wasn’t really at work in July 2010 when he rushed to the aid of another man who fell into a concrete pit at a sewage treatment plant.
Pound and two other rescuers found the victim dead at the bottom of the pit at the Sewickley Borough facility, according to the court’s opinion by Senior Judge James Gardner Colins. As he climbed out of the pit, Pound was overcome by methane gas and fell from a ladder, injuring his left leg, knee, foot, ribs, back, head and lungs.
Pound’s employer, Pipeline Systems Inc., and the Continental Western Insurance Company appealed to Commonwealth Court after the state Workers Compensation Appeals Board ruled that Pound was due benefits for work-related injuries because he was acting within the scope of his employment during the rescue attempt.
In his opinion, Colins wrote that Pound was at the Sewickley plant because his firm had a contract to expand the facility. He had previously worked in the concrete pit, but on the day of the fatal accident was installing a pipeline about 30 feet away.
Pipeline Systems and the insurance company argued on appeal that Pound shouldn’t receive unemployment comp because his “compulsion to act as a Good Samaritan was not employment-related,” Colins noted.
Yet, the judge found that Pound’s participation in the rescue attempt fell “within the course and scope of his employment.”
“Attempts to render aid to another do not, in and of themselves, constitute an abandonment of employment,” Colins wrote.
Here’s why a workers’ comp ‘reform’ bill is just an attack on workers’ rights
Across the country, in state houses largely influenced by insurance industry interests, there is an insidious attack on workers’ rights masquerading as “workers’ compensation reform”.
These sham reforms would return many workers, especially those in dangerous industries, to the dark days of the Industrial Revolution when little recourse existed for injured workers or their families.
In Pennsylvania, supporters of a bill sponsored by Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, R-Lehigh, have already begun to encroach on the workers’ compensation system as it exists.
According to Mackenzie, injured workers would benefit from treatment guidelines. That’s false.
Also Read: The Ugly Truth about Texting while driving
Treatment guidelines, which are trumpeted as systematizing and creating uniformity in how workplace injuries are addressed, shift individualized care to an “evidence-based” statistical approach. But medical care needs, particularly for serious injuries, cannot be analyzed by numbers or measured with algorithms.
This bogus “reform legislation” presents real threats to workers.
Should a construction worker who was severely injured while trying to rescue another man at a job site be denied workers compensation?
The state Supreme Court will consider that question.
Pipeline Systems argues that Pound, its employee, should be denied those benefits because he wasn’t really at work when he tried to save a man who fell into a concrete pit at Sewickley Borough’s sewage treatment plant in July 2010.
Pipeline Systems and the Continental Western Insurance Co. claim Pound isn’t eligible for workers comp because the rescue wasn’t part of his work-related duties. Pound was at the sewage plant because his firm had a contract to enlarge the facility.
In a ruling issued in July, a Commonwealth Court panel concluded that the rescue bid was within the scope of Pound’s employment.
The Supreme Court will delve into one question: whether state law “unambiguously provides that the employee must be within the course and scope of his employment at the time he provides aid and is injured, not merely be in the course and scope of his employment at the time the emergency arose.”
As part of its decision in the case, the PA Supreme Court discussed the theory that “an employer derives a benefit from the goodwill created by the employee rendering aid or assistance to another and that this goodwill may bring injuries incurred while rendering aid” that would be covered by workers’ comp. The court rejected the idea.
That caused the Pennsylvania legislature to pass a new law to provide workers’ comp benefits for:
“an employee who, while in the course and scope of his employment, goes to the aid of a person and suffers injury or death as a direct result of … rendering emergency care, first aid, or rescue at the scene of the emergency.”
(Pipeline Systems Inc. v. Pound, Commonwealth Court of PA, No. 1577 C.D. 2014, 7/7/15)