Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Under The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act

The benefits provided to employees under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act (hereinafter “Act”) are not limited solely to Pennsylvania employees who suffer work related injuries while working within the Commonwealth. Under certain circumstances, the extraterritorial provisions of the Act will extend coverage to those employees who sustain work related injuries outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Section §305.2(a) of the Act states that extraterritorial jurisdiction will apply when:

(a)        If an employee, while working outside the territorial limits of this State, suffers an  injury on account of which he, or in the event of his death, his dependents, would    have been entitled to the benefits provided by this act had such injury occurred within this State, such employee, or in the event of his death resulting from such injury, his dependents, shall be entitled to the benefits provided by this act, provided that at the time of such injury:

(1)  His employment is principally localized in this State, or

(2)  He is working under a contract of hire made in this State in employment not principally localized in any state, or

(3)  He is working under a contract of hire made in this State in employment principally localized in another state whose workmen’s compensation law is not applicable to his employer, or

(4)  He is working under a contract of hire made in this State for employment outside the United States and Canada.

It is in this practitioner’s experience that Sections 305.2(a)(1) and 305.2(a)(2) are the provisions most frequently utilized to confer jurisdiction in Pennsylvania. Accordingly, this blog post will focus specifically on the applicability of Sections §305.2(a)(1) and (2).

If a client is injured outside Pennsylvania the first question asked is whether the employment is “principally located” in Pennsylvania. The focus is “. . .whether the claimant worked at that location as a rule and not as an exception.” Williams v. WCAB (Pohl), 4 A.3d 742, 746 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2010). Furthermore, “in order to be considered principally localized in Pennsylvania, the Act does not require that the Claimant spend a majority of his working time in this [Pennsylvania] state, but rather only a substantial part of his working time.” Id. at 748. InWilliams v. WCAB (Pohl), the court held that the Claimant’s employment was principally localized in Pennsylvania because the Claimant, a truck driver, began and ended his trips in Williamsport, PA and one third of the miles traveled by the Claimant in the course and scope of his employment were within Pennsylvania. Id.at 748. See also Macomber v. WCAB (Penske Transportation Services, Gallagher Bassett Services and Old Republic Insurance Co.), 837 A.2d 1283, 1286 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2003) referring to Robbins v. WCAB (Mason-Dixon, Inc.) 496 A.2d 1349 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1985).

However, it is important to recognize that extraterritorial jurisdiction pursuant to Section §305.2(a)(1) will not be automatically extended simply because an employee’s employment is principally localized in Pennsylvania. For instance, where a Claimant has entered into an agreement which states that an employee’s employment is principally localized in a particular state “. . . a court will be constrained to find that the his employment was principally localized in that particular state.” Watt v. WCAB (Boyd Brothers Transportation), 2015 Pa. Commw. Lexis 392, 9. Nevertheless, despite the presence of such an agreement, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has found that “. . . an agreement that confers exclusive jurisdiction to another state is unenforceable when the work injury occurs in Pennsylvania.” Watt v. WCAB (Boyd Brothers Transportation), 2015 Pa. Commw. Lexis 392, 15.

Under Section §305.2(a)(2), the Act’s extraterritorial provisions will also apply in situations where a Claimant, although hired in Pennsylvania, does not have employment that is principally localized in any one location. When determining whether or not an employee was hired in Pennsylvania, “the Act utilizes the place-of-contract test and a contract is created wherever the acceptance occurs.” S.I. Industries v. WCAB (Zon), 613 A.2d 170, 171 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1992). Additionally, “where a contract is accepted by telephone, the acceptance is effective and the contract is created at the place where the acceptor speaks.” Interstate Carriers Cooperative v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, WCAB and DeSanto, 443 A.2d 1376, 1378 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1982). The caseTaylor v. WCAB (Ace Installers, Inc., Beacon Contractors, Inc., Insurance Co. of North America) provides a helpful example of when employment will not be considered principally localized. In Taylor, the Claimant’s employment was found not to be principally localized in any one state because after the Claimant was initially hired in Pennsylvania to perform a job for his employer in Virginia he then performed jobs for his employer in Dallas, Texas and Florida. 543 A.2d 219, 220 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1988).

In sum, an Employee may be eligible to receive benefits under Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Act even though the Claimant was not in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania when he sustained his work related injury.

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