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LAMARA NICKENS v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (10/09/87)

decided: October 9, 1987.

LAMARA NICKENS, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, CRIME VICTIM'S COMPENSATION BOARD, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Crime Victim's Compensation Board in case of In Re: Claim of Lamara Nickens, Claim No. 84-0749-B.

COUNSEL

Gail M. Whitaker, for petitioner.

Amy Zapp, Deputy Attorney General, with her, Andrew S. Gordon, Chief Deputy Attorney General, LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General, for respondent.

Judges MacPhail and Doyle, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.

Author: Blatt

[ 110 Pa. Commw. Page 190]

Lamara Nickens (petitioner) petitions for review of an order of the Crime Victim's Compensation Board (Board) which denied her request for compensation.

On February 14, 1984, the petitioner was assaulted by her estranged husband. On January 16, 1985 she filed a claim under the Pennsylvania Crime Victim's Compensation Act (Act)*fn1 for reimbursement for medical expenses and lost earnings resulting from that attack. On March 6, 1985, the Board denied the petitioner's claim for compensation because she was "[a] member of the family of the person who allegedly committed the crime . . ." and, therefore, ineligible under Section 477.3(b) of the Act, 71 P.S. § 180-7.3(b). The petitioner thereafter requested reconsideration, and on April 4, 1985, the Board affirmed its March 6, 1985 decision. This appeal followed.

The petitioner's sole contention on appeal is that, although she was married at the time of the attack, she was estranged from and not living with her husband, who committed the crime, and that she does not fall

[ 110 Pa. Commw. Page 191]

    within the disqualifying provisions of Section 477.3(b) of the Act.

Our scope of review of a Board denial of compensation, of course, is limited to determining whether or not constitutional rights were violated, an error of law was committed, or a necessary finding is unsupported by substantial evidence. Boyd v. Pennsylvania Crime Victim's Compensation Board, 95 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 15, 504 A.2d 415 (1986). And, where, as here, we are to examine the Board's interpretation and application of the statute it is charged with administering, the Board's interpretation is entitled to great deference and will not be overturned unless it is clear that such construction is erroneous. Spicer v. Department of Public Welfare, 58 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 558, 428 A.2d 1008 (1981).

Although Section 477.3(b) of the Act*fn2 now only precludes family members from receiving compensation if the offender is living in the same household and will benefit from the award, it is undisputed that we must look to the statute as it read on February 14, 1984, the date when the cause of this action accrued. Section 3 of the Statutory Construction Act, 1 Pa. C.S. § 1926 (no statute shall be construed retroactively unless manifestly so intended), and § 1953 ...


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