Case Law Update | Roundtree v. WCAB (Pa. Cmwlth. May 8, 2015) | PA Work Injury

July 7, 2015

Claimant, a forensic technician with the City, filed an (evidentially counseled) claim petition in October 2010 alleging “major depressive disorder, recurrent, severe, without psychotic features” as result of long term harassment, a hostile work environment, and race, gender, and age discrimination.  She sought medical bills, attorney fees, and full disability benefits.  Five hearings in the case were ultimately scheduled.  Claimant did not attend first, but did attend another without counsel in March 2011, at which time WCJ set another for 30 days, to give Claimant time to present medical evidence of her claimed mental health disorders.  WCJ gave Claimant another 90 days.  Claimant attempted to enter her medical records, but was informed that unless she wanted to limit her claim to 52 weeks, actual testimony was required; WCJ gave her another 30 days.  At that final hearing, in December 2011, Claimant again failed to present someone to testify, and WCJ granted City’s motion to dismiss without prejudice (City sought dismissal with prejudice).  WCAB affirmed.  Claimant appealed, pro se, on basis that as a disabled layperson, she should have been given more time to present her medical evidence and that her due process rights were violated

 

Cmwlth Ct: Affirm.  No abuse of discretion by WCJ, who showed ample patience, gave ample extensions and latitude, and informed Claimant exactly what she needed to proceed.  Repeated failure to comply with WCJ-imposed deadlines is valid basis for denial of another continuance.  Also, medical evidence (expert testimony) may not be necessary when nexus between injury and causation is obvious (i.e., machine malfunction severs a finger), but when nexus is not so obvious, unequivocal medical testimony is needed.  Here, allegations that work environment led to mental health problems are not obvious enough to disregard need for competent evidence.

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