Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Jose Scheffer v. San Juan Credit Furniture, No. A-80434.
Allen L. Feingold, for petitioner.
Earl T. Britt, with him Wayne A. Schaible, Duane, Morris & Heckscher, for respondent, San Juan Credit Furniture.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Williams, Jr. and Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Barbieri.
[ 75 Pa. Commw. Page 646]
The claimant, Jose Scheffer, appeals an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board affirming a referee's decision denying the claimant an award of counsel fees, interest, and a penalty against his employer, San Juan Credit Furniture, under The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act (Act), Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, 77 P.S. §§ 1-1066.
On April 15, 1977, the claimant suffered a work related injury in which he sustained a sprained right shoulder. The employer issued a Notice of Compensation Payable to the claimant, making payments until the claimant executed a Final Receipt on July 5, 1977, acknowledging that the employer had paid him disability benefits for his injury, and that he was able to return to work on June 7, 1977. On April 30, 1979, however, the claimant filed a claim petition in which he asserted his work injury of April 15, 1977. A referee's hearing was held on this petition at which time the claimant acknowledged that he suffered no injury subsequent to June 6, 1977, but instead averred that his petition was solely for the payment of medical bills relating to his April 15, 1977 injury. The employer agreed at the close of this hearing to review any bills submitted to it by the claimant.
Thereafter, on June 14, 1979, claimant's counsel by way of a letter, submitted medical bills to the employer, to which the employer responded on July 9, 1979, that it was willing to pay all outstanding medical bills upon the proviso that payment be made directly to the claimant's medical providers. Subsequently, three more hearings were held in front of a referee. The first was held on August 7, 1979, at which time the claimant agreed to provide the employer
[ 75 Pa. Commw. Page 647]
with documentation of certain medical expenses. The second and third hearings were held on October 6 and December 11, 1979 respectively, the net result of which yielded the employer's continued willingness to pay the outstanding medical bills of the claimant, and the continued insistence of the claimant's counsel that payment be made directly to him instead of the medical providers. Additionally, the claimant requested, at the December hearing, that he be awarded interest, attorney's fees and a penalty.
In denying the claimant's request for fees, interest and a penalty, the referee made the following findings, to wit:
20. The referee specifically finds that Defendant did not unreasonably contest this claim and, as a matter of fact, did not contest it at all once provided with Claimant's bills and verification as to which bills had been paid and by whom. What Defendant did contest was the request by Claimant, by his attorney, that the medical providers not be paid directly but that a draft for the total amount of said bills should be made payable to Claimant and his attorney.
21. The referee specifically finds that Defendant was not in violation of the Act in failing to pay the medical providers directly prior to this decision since it had always indicated willingness to do so, but it was Claimant's counsel who objected to this procedure and attempted to persuade the referee to order Defendant to ...