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The Pennsylvania State Police cannot recoup workers compensation benefits from an injured trooper who was also awarded more than $1 million in a lawsuit related to an on-duty car accident, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday.
The court rejected arguments that state police is entitled to recoup the money that was provided to trooper Joseph Bushta under the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act and the state’s Heart and Lung Act, which provides certain designated public employees, primarily police and fire personnel, who are injured in the course of their duties, with their full salary — as opposed to the two-thirds issued under workers comp — until they return to duty, according to documents in Pennsylvania State Police v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board.
On Feb. 25, 2011, Mr. Bushta was on duty when his police vehicle was hit by a tractor-trailer. As a result of the collision, he suffered cervical, thoracic and lumbar injuries requiring medical treatment and physical therapy, and which resulted in his inability to perform his job for about 16 months, court records state.
Within a month of his accident, the state police, a self-insured public employer, issued a notice of compensation payable indicating a weekly compensation rate of $858.08. The notice also contained the following notation under the heading Remarks: Paid Salary Continuation. Heart & Lung Benefits By the Employer, court records state.
Three years later, Mr. Bushta and his spouse entered into a settlement agreement with the tractor-trailer driver, the driver's employer and other responsible parties for $1,070,000.
Because Mr. Bushta’s compensation while injured stemmed from the Heart and Lung Act, the state Supreme Court ruled, in accordance with the findings of a similar case, that “Heart and Lung benefits subsume (workers compensation) benefits, and thus subrogation of such benefits is barred,” according to court documents.
An attorney for the Pennsylvania State Police could not be reached for comment.
PITTSBURGH—A restaurant manager and chef who had smoked for about 30 years is entitled to workers compensation benefits because heavy work-related lifting likely contributed to his heart attack, a Pennsylvania appellate court has ruled.