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Smith v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Bd.

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

March 9, 2015

Steven Smith, Petitioner
v.
Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Consolidated Freightways, Inc.), Respondent

Submitted October 24, 2014.

Appealed from No. A13-0709. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board.

Mary Ellen Chajkowski, Jacksonville, FL, for petitioner.

Gregory D. Geiss, Harrisburg, for respondent.

OPINION

PER CURIAM

Claimant, Steven Smith, petitions for review of an order of the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board that affirmed the decision of Workers' Compensation Judge (WCJ) Cheryl Ignasiak denying his petition to review medical treatment and/or billing (review petition) and petition for penalties (penalty petition). We affirm.[1]

Page 236

The background of this matter is as follows.[2] Claimant, a truck driver for Employer, filed a May 1996 claim petition alleging that he was disabled as a result of brief exposure to a chemical on February 28, 1996. After two hearings and a review of expert medical reports, WCJ Kathleen Vallely dismissed the claim petition. She also denied Claimant's October 1997 petition to review medical treatment, wherein he sought to recover certain medical expenses allegedly related to the February 1996 incident, concluding that his complaints were caused by a non-work-related hiatal hernia. The Board affirmed both of WCJ Vallely's orders and Claimant took no further appeals. Subsequently, Claimant filed additional petitions involving the same February 1996 incident, all of which amounted to an effort to re-litigate the same alleged injury. Both the Pennsylvania and United States Supreme Courts have declined to consider his appeals and/or requests for reconsideration.

With the instant appeal, Claimant has now been before this Court five times involving the same claim. The fourth time Claimant came before this Court, we held that his attempt to raise a claim relating to the February 1996 incident was barred by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel in that he was " seeking to re-litigate the same claim that he has been trying to re-litigate for over a decade." Smith v. Workers' Comp. Appeal Bd. (Consol. Freightways, Inc.), (Pa. Cmwlth., No. 2737 C.D. 2010 filed December 1, 2011); Supplemental Reproduced Record (S.R.R.) at 147b. Accordingly, we affirmed the Board's dismissal of the six review petitions then at issue and expressed our concern with Claimant's decision to doggedly pursue litigation, observing as follows:

We agree with Employer that the appeal is frivolous and that the conduct of both Claimant and his counsel has been " obdurate and vexatious." Claimant has, over a period of fifteen years, filed approximately fifteen petitions, all based on the same incident which, back in 1997, was determined by WCJ Vallely not to have caused any injury or disability to Claimant. At least five hearings have been held by four different WCJs. This is the fourth time that Claimant has been before this Court. Claimant has appealed unsuccessfully to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court four times and to the United States Supreme Court twice. Public funds have been extensively expended as Claimant repeatedly attempts to re-litigate a case that was decided many years ago. Moreover, Claimant's actions are, at the very least, unfair and unduly burdensome to Employer, who has been forced to defend against each of these unreasonable petitions.

S.R.R. at 148-49b.

In December 2012, Claimant added two more petitions to his litigation tally, bringing the number of petitions based on the same incident to approximately seventeen. In the present petitions, Claimant alleges, inter alia, that reasonable treatment for the February 28, 1996 injury has been refused and that Employer has improperly refused to pay medical bills. In its January 2013 answer and motion to dismiss the petitions, Employer denied the critical averments and alleged that Claimant's petitions were barred by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel and time-barred

Page 237

by the three-year statute of limitations for compensation claims found in Section 315 of the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act (Act).[3] WCJ Ignasiak agreed, granting Employer's motion to dismiss and denying Claimant's review and penalty petitions. The Board affirmed, noting Claimant's previous unsuccessful attempts to re-litigate his alleged 1996 injury and quoting extensively from our previous ...


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