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MARY P. WAGNER v. NATIONAL INDEMNITY COMPANY (09/22/80)

decided: September 22, 1980.

MARY P. WAGNER, ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF EDWARD S. WAGNER, JR., DECEASED, APPELLANT,
v.
NATIONAL INDEMNITY COMPANY



No. 54 May Term, 1979, Appeal from Order of the Superior Court dated May 16, 1979, at No. 210 March Term, 1978

COUNSEL

Neil J. Rovner, Harrisburg, for appellant.

Robert P. Reed, Harrisburg, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ. Eagen, C. J., concurs in the result. Nix, J., joins in the opinion of the court and files a separate concurring opinion. Larsen, J., files a dissenting opinion in which Kauffman, J., joins. Flaherty, J., files a dissenting opinion. Kauffman, J., files a dissenting opinion in which Larsen, J., joins.

Author: O'brien

[ 492 Pa. Page 158]

OPINION OF THE COURT

The facts of the instant case are not in dispute. Edward S. Wagner, deceased, was a truck driver for Shreiner Trucking Company. The decedent was killed on January 26, 1977, when a company-owned tractor-trailer he was driving ran off the road and overturned. At the time of the accident, decedent did not own a car and thus, had no insurance of his own. Because the accident occurred during the course of decedent's employment, decedent's family has been and continues to receive benefits pursuant to the Workmen's Compensation Act.*fn1

Appellant, the Estate of Edward S. Wagner, through Mary P. Wagner, Administratrix, filed a claim with appellee, National Indemnity Company, the no-fault carrier of decedent's employer. Mrs. Wagner sought to obtain the difference between the Workmen's Compensation benefits and her "survivor's benefits" and decedent's "work loss benefits" as provided in the Pennsylvania No-Fault Motor Vehicle Insurance

[ 492 Pa. Page 159]

Act.*fn2 National Indemnity denied the claim, asserting that it was entitled to the employer's immunity from suit by an employee. 77 P.S. § 481(a) (Supp.1979-80). Appellant then filed a complaint in assumpsit in the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, alleging that decedent had been covered by Shreiner Trucking's no-fault policy. The trial court sustained National Indemnity's preliminary objections and dismissed appellant's complaint based on Turner v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, 256 Pa. Super. 43, 389 A.2d 591 (1978). The Superior Court affirmed, Wagner v. National Indemnity Co., 266 Pa. Super. 110, 403 A.2d 118 (1979), and we granted appellant's petition for allowance of appeal.

Section 303 of the Workmen's Compensation Act provides:

"The liability of an employer under this act shall be exclusive and in place of any and all other liability to such employes, his legal representative, husband or wife, parents, dependents, next of kin or anyone otherwise entitled to damages in any action at law or otherwise on account of any injury or death . . . or occupational disease . . .". As amended, Act of December 5, 1974, P.L. 782, No. 263, § 6, 77 P.S. § 481(a) (Supp.1979-80). (Emphasis added).

This section, which was enacted five months after passage of the No-Fault Act admits no exception; the liability of an employer to an employee is limited to the Workmen's Compensation Act.

Appellant argues, however, that two sections of the No-Fault Act evince the legislature's intention to create an exception to Section 303 of the Workmen's Compensation Act. Appellant believes that Sections 204 and 206 of the No-Fault Act must be read to allow recovery by appellant under no-fault on the instant facts. We do not agree.

Section 204 provides:

"(a) Applicable security. -- The security for the payment of basic loss benefits applicable to an injury to:

[ 492 Pa. Page 160]

"(1) an employee, or to the spouse or other relative of any employee residing in the same household as the employee, if the accident resulting in injury occurs while the victim or deceased victim is driving or occupying a motor vehicle furnished by such employee's employer, is the security for the payment of basic loss benefits covering such motor vehicle or, if none, any other security applicable to such victim;

"(2) an insured is the security under which the victim or deceased victim is insured;

"(3) the driver or other occupant of a motor vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury who is not an insured is the security covering such vehicle;

"(4) an individual who is not an insured or the driver or other occupant of a motor vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury is the security covering any motor vehicle involved in such accident. For purposes of this paragraph, a parked and unoccupied motor vehicle is not a motor vehicle involved in an accident unless it was parked so as to cause unreasonable risk of injury; and

"(5) any other individual is the applicable assigned claims plan." 40 P.S. § 1009.204 (Supp.1979-80).

Further, Section 206 provides:

". . . Except as provided in section 108(a)(3) of this act, all benefits or advantages (less reasonably incurred collection costs) that an individual receives or is entitled to receive from social security (except those benefits provided under Title XIX of the Social Security Act and except those medicare benefits to which a person's entitlement depends upon use of his so-called 'life-time reserve' of benefit days) workmen's compensation, any State-required temporary, nonoccupational disability insurance, and all other benefits (except the proceeds of life insurance) received by or available to an individual because of the injury from any government, unless the law authorizing or providing for such benefits or advantages makes them excess or secondary to the benefits in accordance with this act, shall be subtracted from loss in calculating net loss." 40 P.S. § 1009.206(a) (Supp.1979-80).

[ 492 Pa. Page 161]

We do not believe, however, that either of the above-quoted sections creates any exception to the exclusivity of remedy section of the Workmen's Compensation Act.

As the Superior Court stated in Turner v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, supra, 256 Pa. Super. at 46, n. 2, 389 A.2d at 593, n. 2:

"Were we to decide that the Workmen's Compensation Act and the No-fault Act were in any manner irreconcilable, the iron-clad exclusivity provision contained in the 1974 amendment to Section 303 would control. 'Whenever the provisions of two or more statutes enacted finally during the same General Assembly are irreconcilable, the statute latest in date of final enactment irrespective of its effective date, shall prevail.' Statutory Construction Act, Act of May 28, 1937, P.L. 1019, art. IV, § 65, 46 P.S. § 565.

"We are of the opinion that if any exception had been created by the No-fault Act, the legislature would surely have seen fit to incorporate the exception when it amended Section 303 of the Workmen's Compensation Act. 'Any question as to the intention of the legislature that the remedy created by the Workmen's Compensation Act be exclusive is removed by [the 1974 amendment].' Greer v. United States Steel Corp., 237 Pa. Super. 597, 600, 352 A.2d 450, 451 (1975), rev'd on other grounds, 475 Pa. 48, 380 A.2d 1221 (1977)."

We agree with the Superior Court that if the applicable sections were irreconcilable, Section 303 of the Workmen's Compensation Act would have to control for the reasons set forth by the Superior Court; we nonetheless shall try to reconcile the No-Fault Act and the Workmen's Compensation Act.

Any analysis must start with the plain meaning of Section 303 of the Workmen's Compensation Act which in clear and unambiguous words states that liability under workmen's compensation is the exclusive liability of an employer to an employee for injury, death or occupational disease. As a broad, remedial statute, the act was passed to protect employees and their families by insuring a quick and

[ 492 Pa. Page 162]

    certain payment for work-related injuries without having to resort to the courts. As the Superior Court stated in Greer v. United States Steel Corp., supra, 237 Pa. Super. 597 at 599, 352 A.2d 450:

"With the enactment of the first Workmen's Compensation Act by the legislature in 1915, Act No. 338, June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, 77 P.S. § 1 et seq., and its companion, the Occupational Disease Act, Act of June 21, 1939, P.L. 566, No. 284, 77 P.S. § 1201, et seq., and the amendments made periodically thereto, it has been the clear legislative intent to provide an accessible, expert and easy forum for the handling of all claims for occupational injury and disease; to provide for prompt payment of all costs for all medical expenses and reasonable income loss payments to the employee or his dependents; to reduce the costs and delays of personal injury court trials and eliminate unnecessary payment of fee to lawyers, ...


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