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Pennsylvania impairment evaluation process ruled unconstitutional

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Tuesday struck down the state’s impairment rating evaluation process as unconstitutional.

Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, employers can request an impairment evaluation during which a physician determines the degree of an injured employee’s impairment. The provision in the state’s workers comp act required physicians to apply the methodology from the American Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.

In 2007, Mary Ann Protz sustained a work-related knee injury and began receiving temporary total disability benefits from her employer. In 2011, Ms. Protz had an impairment rating evaluation where the physician gave her a 10% impairment rating based on the AMA guide. Ms. Protz’s employer filed a modification petition to change her disability status from total to partial, which would limit the duration of her workers comp benefits, according to court documents. 

Ms. Protz appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, arguing that the “General Assembly unconstitutionally delegated to the AMA the authority to establish criteria for evaluating permanent impairment.” The board rejected this argument, but the commonwealth court reversed that decision on appeal. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that the provision is unconstitutional. 

“In these consolidated appeals, we consider whether this mandate violates the constitutional requirement that all legislative power ‘be vested in a General Assembly, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.’ ” said the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. “We hold that it does.”

Four judges joined the majority opinion, with one judge concurring and one dissenting.