Termination Petition After Employee Returned to Work at Reduced Hours

In Norris v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Hahnemann Hospital), 726 A.2d 1 (Pa. Cmwlth.), appeal denied, 560 Pa. 714, 743 A.2d 925 (1999), a claimant who was receiving benefits pursuant to a notice of compensation payable (NCP) returned to work on June 9, 1994, at reduced hours. On June 17, 1994, the employer filed termination, suspension and modification petitions, alleging that the claimant had fully recovered from her work related injury as of March 29, 1994. On five occasions between September 1994 and February 1995, while the employer's petitions were pending, the parties executed supplemental agreements modifying the NCP to reflect changes in the claimant's earnings resulting from the increased hours she was able to work. Following hearings on the employer's petitions, the WCJ concluded that the employer had met its burden of proving that the claimant had fully recovered from her work injury as of March 29, 1994, and granted the employer's termination petition. The Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB) affirmed that decision. The claimant appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the supplemental agreements issued during the pendency of the litigation precluded the employer from arguing that the claimant had fully recovered because, in the supplemental agreements, the parties had stipulated that the claimant was entitled to partial disability benefits based upon her return to work. Disagreeing, the court stated in Norris that, "Such a stipulation, in this case at least, was nothing more than an acknowledgment of an undisputed fact, entitling Claimant to partial disability benefits." Norris, 726 A.2d at 3.