LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, AS SUBROGEE OF GEORGE LAWRENCE, Appellant
DOMTAR PAPER CO.
COMMERCIAL NET LEASE REALTY SERVICES, INC., AND COMMERCIAL NET LEASE REALTY TRUST, AND COMMERCIAL NET LEASE REALTY, INC., AND NATIONAL RETAIL PROPERTIES, INC., AND NATIONAL RETAIL PROPERTIES TRUST, Appellees
Appeal from the Order Entered May 22, 2012, In the Court of Common Pleas of Elk County, Civil Division, at No. C.P. 2011-485.
BEFORE: SHOGAN, LAZARUS and MUSMANNO, JJ.
Appellant, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, as subrogee of George Lawrence ("Liberty Mutual"), appeals from the May 22, 2012 order sustaining preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer filed by Commercial Net Lease Realty Services, Inc., Commercial Net Lease Realty Trust, Commercial Net Lease Realty, Inc., National Retail Properties, Inc., and National Retail Properties Trust (collectively "Appellees"). On appeal, Liberty Mutual asserts, inter alia, that it has an absolute right to subrogation under the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act for benefits paid to Mr. Lawrence and that it is not to be denied its right because Mr. Lawrence did not sue Appellees. After careful review, we affirm.
The relevant factual background of this matter is largely undisputed. On December 13, 2009, Mr. Lawrence was employed by Schneider National, Inc. ("Schneider"). Schneider carried a policy of workers' compensation insurance with Liberty Mutual. While working within the scope of his employment for Schneider, Mr. Lawrence injured his right knee after falling in a parking lot at Domtar Paper Company in Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania. The Domtar Paper Company is situated on property alleged to be owned and maintained by Appellees. Mr. Lawrence made a claim for workers' compensation benefits, and Liberty Mutual paid $33, 929.23 to Mr. Lawrence.
Subsequently, Liberty Mutual designated itself a subrogee of Mr. Lawrence and sued Appellees to recover the amount it paid out as workers' compensation benefits to Mr. Lawrence. Liberty Mutual's claim alleged negligence in Appellees' maintenance of the Domtar Paper Company property and asserted that negligence was the cause of Mr. Lawrence's injuries. On February 13, 2012, Appellees filed preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer to Liberty Mutual's complaint. In their preliminary objections, Appellees claimed that Liberty Mutual's cause of action was barred because Pennsylvania does not recognize an independent cause of action by a workers' compensation insurer where the injured party has not sued in his own right and is not a party to the suit. On May 22, 2012, the trial court filed an order sustaining Appellees' preliminary objections. Liberty Mutual then filed this appeal.
On appeal, Liberty Mutual raises five issues for this Court's consideration:
A. Whether the Preliminary Objections of [Appellees] should have been dismissed as untimely, since there was no threshold evidence of reasonable excuse for the untimely filing, a requirement to overcome untimeliness so as to consider the Preliminary Objections on the merits.
B. Whether the Lower Court erroneously relied on an unpublished Memorandum Opinion in sustaining the Preliminary Objections of [Appellees].
C. Whether [Liberty Mutual] has the absolute right to subrogation under Section 319 of the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act for Workers' Compensation benefits paid.
D. Whether the Lower Court should have applied precedent of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rather than precedent of this Honorable Court on the issue of the right (standing) to subrogation.
E. Liberty [Mutual] has the right to sue the tortfeasor as the subrogee of George Lawrence.
Liberty Mutual's Brief at 3-4.
The standard of review we apply when reviewing a trial court's order granting preliminary objections in the ...