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Greenawalt v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Bristol Environmental, Inc.)

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

May 12, 2014

Charles Greenawalt, Petitioner
v.
Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Bristol Environmental, Inc.), Respondent

Submitted  March 21, 2014

Appealed from No. A12-0109. State Agency: Workers' Compensation Appeal Board.

Justin R. Lewis, Pittsburgh, for petitioner.

Joseph A. Ramser, Pittsburgh, for respondents.

BEFORE: HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge, HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE JAMES GARDNER COLINS, Senior Judge. OPINION BY JUDGE SIMPSON.

OPINION

Page 306

ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge

Charles Greenawalt (Claimant) petitions for review of the order of the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Board) that affirmed a Workers' Compensation Judge's (WCJ) dismissal of his claim petition on the ground that he failed to meet his burden of proving Pennsylvania is the proper forum for his workers' compensation claim. Claimant asserts the WCJ and the Board misapplied Section 305.2 of the Workers' Compensation Act[1] (Act) (governing injuries occurring extraterritorially) when they dismissed his claim. Upon review, we affirm.

In April 2010, Claimant filed a claim petition alleging he sustained a work-related back injury, including but not limited to bulging discs, during the course of his employment with Bristol Environmental, Inc. (Bristol). Bristol denied the allegations, and it asserted that Pennsylvania lacked jurisdiction over the claim petition because Claimant's alleged injury occurred in New York, and that Claimant's alleged injury did not occur in the course and scope of employment. Claimant also filed a penalty petition. Again, Bristol denied the allegations. Hearings ensued before a WCJ.

Claimant testified he works as a union laborer out of Local 1451 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. As a union laborer, he has a business agent, who locates jobs for union laborers. Throughout his membership with Local 1451, Claimant worked for Bristol a number of times. These jobs were for a limited duration, followed by a layoff. Before accepting his most recent job with Bristol at a job site in New York, Claimant worked for two other companies, Global Insulation, Inc. and LVI Environmental Services, Inc.

In September 2009, Bristol hired Claimant to perform work on the Midtown Mall project in Rochester, New York. While in New York, Claimant initially stayed at a hotel; however, Bristol later obtained lodging for Claimant and two of his coworkers at an apartment complex. Claimant and his coworkers would work throughout the week in New York and return home to Pennsylvania on weekends.

After spending the weekend of December 12 and 13, 2009 at home, Claimant and his coworkers returned to the New York apartment complex on Sunday evening. The next morning, Claimant slipped and fell on ice as he walked to his car to warm it up before leaving for the job site. Claimant testified he hit his back and tailbone as a result of the fall. Claimant's coworkers helped Claimant to his feet. They then proceeded to the job site. Upon arriving at the job site, Claimant notified his foreman of the incident.

Claimant testified that he attempted to perform his job duties that morning, but had difficulty because of the intense pain. Claimant's supervisor instructed him to perform light duty work, and Claimant completed his shift performing light duty work. Claimant continued to perform light duty work until Bristol laid him off in January 2010.[2]

Page 307

Ultimately, the WCJ dismissed Claimant's claim and penalty petitions, determining Claimant did not prove that the invocation of jurisdiction in Pennsylvania was proper under Section 305.2 of the Act. Specifically, the WCJ found that at the time of his injury, Claimant worked under a contract of hire made in Pennsylvania for employment principally localized in New York. Although Claimant previously worked for Bristol on numerous occasions throughout the years at various job sites that may not have been principally localized in any state, Claimant did not have a continuous employment relationship with Bristol such that the prior jobs would constitute a single period of employment for purposes of determining where Claimant's employment was principally localized. Thus, the WCJ dismissed Claimant's claim and penalty petitions for lack of jurisdiction.

Claimant appealed, and the Board affirmed. This appeal by Claimant followed.

On appeal,[3] Claimant argues the WCJ and the Board erred in determining Pennsylvania lacks jurisdiction over his claim. While his injury occurred out of state, Claimant contends, extraterritorial jurisdiction is proper under Section 305.2 of the Act.

In particular, Claimant asserts his employment was principally localized in Pennsylvania making jurisdiction proper under Section 305.2(a)(1) of the Act, 77 P.S. ยง 411.2(a)(1). He maintains he was hired in Pennsylvania, and he performed his training in Pennsylvania. Also, in the past, he completed over 30 jobs for Bristol in Pennsylvania. Further, the New York job was expected to last far less than a year and did, in fact, ...


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