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JOSEPH R. HEFFERIN v. JOSEPH J. STEMPKOWSKI (04/19/77)

decided: April 19, 1977.

JOSEPH R. HEFFERIN, APPELLEE,
v.
JOSEPH J. STEMPKOWSKI, V. DUQUESNE LIGHT COMPANY, INC., APPELLANT



Appeal from the order entered on the 13th day of August, 1976, by the Honorable Francis A. Barry, of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, Allegheny County, at No. G.D. 75-23873 - Issue No. 97391.

COUNSEL

John S. Sherry, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Warren D. Ferry, Pittsburgh, with him William A. Gray, Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Watkins, President Judge, and Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort and Spaeth, JJ. Van der Voort, J., files a concurring opinion. Price, J., files a dissenting opinion.

Author: Watkins

[ 247 Pa. Super. Page 367]

This appeal is from the order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Allegheny County, which overruled Preliminary Objections in the nature of a demurrer filed by the additional appellant, Duquesne Light Co., Inc. This appeal from the interlocutory order was heard after petition and allowance by this Court.

This is an action in trespass by Joseph R. Hefferin, an employee of Duquesne Light Co., Inc., who was injured by Joseph J. Stempkowski. At the time of his injury Joseph R. Hefferin was setting out warning signs behind a parked company truck when Stempkowski's vehicle struck him and pinned him against the truck. Hefferin was acting within the course and scope of his employment and entitled to Workmen's Compensation.

After suit was entered by Hefferin against Stempkowski, Duquesne Light Co., Inc. was joined as an additional defendant by Stempkowski.

The sole question involved in this appeal is: "Does the December 5, 1974 amendment to Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act, Act of December 5, 1974, P.L. 782, No. 263

[ 247 Pa. Super. Page 368]

ยง 6, 77 P.S. 481(b) bar the joinder of a plaintiff's employer as an additional defendant in an action brought by the plaintiff employee against a third party?"

In order to reach a proper interpretation of this amendment, it must not be viewed in a vacuum, set apart from the recent history of Workmen's Compensation legislation in Pennsylvania.

The National Commission on State Workmen's Compensation Laws submitted its report to the Congress and the President in July, 1972. The report contained 84 recommendations for the improvement of state workmen's compensation laws, and of the 84 recommendations, 19 were deemed essential by the Commission. Recommendations R. 2.18 and R. 2.19 address immunity and exclusivity of employers from negligence actions when an employee is impaired or dies because of a work-related injury or disease. The Commission recognized that its recommendations would result in increased costs to employers and included the exclusive liability of an employer as one of the 19 essential recommendations.

With the Commission report as a background, the Pennsylvania Legislature in the years 1972 through 1974 undertook a massive overhaul of the State's Workmen's Compensation Law and Occupational Disease Law which, among other items, caused the average weekly payment to rise from $60.00 per week to a present $187.00 per week. It was the intention of the Legislature to have the Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Law comply with as many of the essential recommendations of the Commission as possible. This culminated on December, 1974 with the enactment of S.B. 1223, wherein the intention of the amendments to Section 303 was to grant the employer total immunity from third-party actions. To accomplish this, the Legislature adopted the language in Section 5 of the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' ...


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