Do Supplemental Agreement Precluded Employers from Seeking to Terminate Disability Benefits ?

In City of Pittsburgh v. Workers' Comp. Appeal Bd. (Wiefling), 790 A.2d 1062 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2001), the court concluded that supplemental agreements acknowledging a permanent partial disability did not preclude a subsequent termination of benefits. The two claimants involved in that case originally received benefits under what is commonly known as the Heart and Lung Act for work-related injuries. The claimants subsequently entered into supplemental agreements with their employer, the City of Pittsburgh, recognizing that the claimants were permanently disabled. Neither agreement provided, however, that the claimant's condition was irreversible. Each claimant then began receiving benefits pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act. Thereafter, the City sought to terminate each claimant's benefits on the basis that the claimants had fully recovered from the work-related injury. In each case, the Workers' Compensation Judge (WCJ) concluded that the supplemental agreement precluded the employer from seeking to terminate benefits. This court disagreed, concluding that res judicata did not bar the employer from litigating the issue of the claimants' disability. Although we noted that the phrase "permanently disabled" in the respective supplemental agreements referred to the claimants' status under the Heart and Lung Act, not to their status for workers' compensation purposes, the Court also noted that: The Court has concluded that a finding of a permanent disability is not the equivalent of a finding that the injury is irreversible.