Capricious Disregard Standard In Pennsylvania
In Leon E. Wintermyer, Inc. v. Workers' Comp. Appeal Bd. (Marlowe), 571 Pa. 189, 812 A.2d 478 (2002), the Supreme Court granted allowance of appeal to consider "the application, in the administrative law setting, of what has been termed the capricious disregard standard of review." Id. at 191, 812 A.2d at 479.
After an extensive review of the historical development of the capricious disregard standard in Pennsylvania jurisprudence, the Court stated:
Since an adjudication cannot be in accordance with law if it is not decided on the basis of law and facts properly adduced, we hold that review for capricious disregard of material, competent evidence is an appropriate component of appellate consideration in every case in which such question is properly brought before the court.
As at common law, this review will generally assume a more visible role on consideration of negative findings and conclusions.
Even in such context, however, this limited aspect of the review serves only as one particular check to assure that the agency adjudication has been conducted within lawful boundaries--it is not to be applied in such a manner as would intrude upon the agency's fact-finding role and discretionary decision-making authority. Wintermyer, 571 Pa. at 203-204, 812 A.2d at 487-488.
Where substantial evidence supports an agency's findings, and the findings in turn support the conclusions, it should remain a rare instance where an appellate court disturbs an adjudication based on capricious disregard. Id.
Thus, the Supreme Court added the "capricious disregard" standard as a separate component of appellate consideration in reviewing administrative agency decisions.
As recognized by the Wintermyer Court, the standard of review governing such adjudications is codified in Section 704 of the Administrative Agency Law, 2 Pa. C.S. 704 (reviewing court should affirm agency adjudication unless constitutional rights are violated, error of law is committed, or necessary findings are not supported by substantial evidence).