Pa. Supreme Issues Mixed Decision on Workers’ Compensation Offsets

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has affirmed in Commonwealth v. WCAB (Harvey), No. 14 EAP 2009 (April 29, 2010), that the use of actuarial data to calculate pension offsets for injured employees who also receive pension benefits from a defined benefit plan is permissible. Affirming the Commonwealth Court, Justice Saylor held that “actuarial assumptions and calculations may form the basis for a reasoned determination of the employer-funded component of a defined-benefit plan.” (emphasis supplied). In essence, the Court affirmed the procedure that has been used by the Commonwealth and others for many years to calculate these offsets, but the Court also affirmed the “practical necessity of expert opinion testimony in matters [such as this].”

As co-counsel for the injured worker, with Attorney Marla Joseph, I am disappointed that the Court did not require the use of specific calculations when, as in a case such as this, the numbers were available. But, by not foreclosing a claimant’s ability to challenge the calculations and the assumptions underlying them, injured workers will now have to employ actuaries to establish when improper and inaccurate calculations form the basis for a claimed offset — the Court stated: “Finally, we acknowledge Claimant’s concern with burden shifting, but, at least as a practical matter, some burden of going forward with contrary evidence generally ensues after a party bearing the initial burden puts forward a credible prima facie case.”

To read Harvey, click here.