Appeals from the Orders of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in the cases of Betty Jane Mehalovich, w/o Michael v. U.S. Steel Corporation and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, No. A-78560, and Angeline Kuchoric, w/o William v. U.S. Steel Corporation and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, No. A-78553.
Robert C. Jones, with him Roger L. Wise, for petitioner.
No appearance for respondents.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges MacPhail and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.
[ 72 Pa. Commw. Page 482]
United States Steel Corporation (Employer) brings this consolidated appeal from two separate orders of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) affirming the decision of a referee.
Despite the Employer's success in prevailing before the referee in each of these cases it appealed to the Board contesting the referee's failure to award the Employer costs, including attorneys' fees, for attending and preparing these cases, which the Employer alleges were brought in bad faith. The Board affirmed the referee's denial of costs in both cases stating the Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act (Act) does not provide for the payment of costs or counsel fees to the employer.*fn1
Employer asks this Court to reverse the orders of the Board, remand the case for a determination as to
[ 72 Pa. Commw. Page 483]
whether or not the Claimants or their counsel commenced these actions*fn2 in bad faith, and direct that reasonable costs, including attorneys' fees, be assessed against Claimant in the event bad faith is found. We, however, cannot grant Employer's requested relief.
Section 440 of the Act imposes attorneys' fees, inter alia, on an employer when it unreasonably contests a claim. However, the Legislature has not expressly provided for an award of attorneys' fees in favor of the employer when a claimant files an action in bad faith. The petitioning Employer asserts that such an award is implicit in the Act and furthers public
[ 72 Pa. Commw. Page 484]
policy against the bad faith commencement of legal actions. Employer contends that if the Act is interpreted to preclude such an award of costs and attorneys' fees to an employer when a claimant commences an action in bad faith, that this classification violates the Equal ...