Byfield v. Workers Compensation Appeal WCAB (Philadelphia Housing Authority) where the Court concluded the WCAB’s order that claimant is barred from recovering costs and attorney’s fees through a separate petition is final and cannot be collaterally attacked by a subsequently filed review petition.
Here, the WCJ granted employer’s petition and suspended claimant’s compensation benefits. Claimant appealed to WCAB seeking reversal of the WCJ’s decision and specifically requested interest and unreasonable contest attorney’s fees. WCAB reversed the WCJ’s decision; however, despite acknowledging claimant’s request for attorney’s fees, the request was not addressed in the opinion. Neither party appealed. Less than a month later, claimant filed a review petition, seeking litigation costs and attorney’s fees incurred during litigation of the suspension petition. A different WCJ concluded that claimant’s proper recourse would have been to appeal the WCAB’s order or request a rehearing. Because claimant did neither, he was barred from recovering those costs and attorney’s fees through a separate petition. Claimant appealed to the WCAB, which affirmed the WCJ’s order.
The court concluded that claimant had standing to appeal the WCAB’s order. Although claimant prevailed before WCAB in his appeal of the suspension order, he only prevailed in part. The court explained that because WCAB did not address his request for costs and attorney’s fees, its order did not entitle him to receive payment for expenses he incurred in defending employer’s suspension petition. As a result, and because an award of attorney’s fees is not automatic, claimant was adversely affected by the WCAB’s decision (i.e., he was aggrieved). Claimant’s proper remedy was to request reconsideration by WCAB or file an appeal to the Commonwealth Court. Claimant failed to do either. Consequently, the WCAB’s order is final and cannot be collaterally attacked by a subsequently filed review petition.