Case Law Update | Fargo v. WCAB (Pa. Cmwlth. October 11, 2016) | PA Work Injury

October 11, 2016

In Fargo v. Workers Compensation Appeal WCAB (City of Philadelphia), the court agreed with WCAB in affirming the WCJ’s denial of Claimant’s claim petition on the basis that the claim was not brought within 600 weeks of Claimant’s last exposure to workplace hazards while working as a firefighter. Link: Fargo v. WCAB (October 11, 2016).

 Facts: Claimant started as a firefighter for Employer in 1972. In 1997, he was diagnosed with squamous skin cell carcinoma. On July 31, 2001, he injured his back in a motor vehicle accident, and elected to take sick leave, remaining out of work until his September 16, 2002 retirement. In 2005, he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. Claimant was diagnosed with bladder cancer on July 6, 2012, and filed a claim petition seeking medical benefits for the bladder cancer on March 14, 2014. On April 25, 2014, Claimant amended the petition to include the 1997 squamous skin cell carcinoma and the 2005 malignant melanoma.  

Conclusion: The court explained the claim petition was untimely under §301(f) because Claimant filed his claim petition in March 2014, more than 600 weeks after July 31, 2001, when Claimant could have last been exposed to carcinogens in the workplace.  

Takeaway/Reasoning: A firefighter who contracts cancer may file a claim under §108(r) within 300 weeks of the last workplace exposure and take advantage of the statutory presumption of compensability. In addition, the General Assembly provided a §108(r) claimant an additional 300 weeks to file a claim albeit without the benefit of the statutory presumption. However, once 600 weeks elapse from the date of the last workplace exposure, the cause of action under §108(r) ceases to exist. 

Takeaway/Reasoning: The 600-week limitation of §301(f) does not conflict with the application of the discovery rule to §315 as the three-year limitations period of §315 may be tolled in §108(r) cases where a claimant was unaware of the nature of his occupational disease, provided the claim is filed before the 600-week expiration period. The court explained the discovery rule’s applicability to §315 does not provide a basis for its application to §301(f), particularly where diagnosis and knowledge that a condition is work-related are irrelevant to the triggering event of the §301(f) limitations period. The §301(f) “triggering event” is not the DOI or disability, as in §315, but rather a claimant’s last work-day with exposure to a known Group 1 carcinogen.

 

 

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