Penalty Petition for Withholding Payment of Workers Comp Disability Benefits

In Department of Public Welfare v. Workers' Comp. Appeal Board (Overton), 783 A.2d 358 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2001), the claimant and the Department of Public Welfare entered into a stipulation to resolve a pending claim petition. The stipulation required Department of Public Welfare (DPW) to, inter alia, pay the claimant past-due total disability benefits as well as outstanding and future medical bills. The parties' stipulation further provided that if payment was not timely made, employer would be responsible for statutory interest and a twenty percent penalty. DPW failed to make all of the payments required by the stipulation and the claimant was forced to file a penalty petition to enforce the terms of the agreement. The WCJ found that DPW's contest of the penalty petition was unreasonable since it had not provided a valid reason for withholding payment. This court concluded that the employer's failure to comply with the WCJ's order adopting the stipulation violated the Act and rendered its contest of the penalty petition unreasonable, warranting the award of attorney's fees.