Thursday, June 05, 2008

UC - willful misconduct - physician's failure to provide medical information

Zurn Industries v. UCBR - Commonwealth Court - June 5, 2008 - UNPUBLISHED OPINION

The claimant was not insubordinate and did not commit willful misconduct when his doctors failed to provide the employer with information about the claimant's functional capacity. he claimant contacted his doctors and asked them to provide the information.

As in as in Bogan v. UCBR, 447 A.2d 708 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1982) and Houff v. UCBR, 397 A.2d 42 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1979), "Claimant attempted to get the information Employer requested, but neither of his physicians provided acceptable information, at least not within the time demanded by Employer. Also, similar to Bogan, Employer was also unsuccessful in its attempt to have Claimant’s physicians specify any work restrictions. Claimant attempted to fulfill the directives of Employer but had no control over his physicians."

discovery - appeal - collateral order doctrine - privilege

T.M. v. Elwyn, Inc. - Superior Court - June 5, 2008

In general, discovery orders are not final, and are therefore unappealable. However, discovery orders involving privileged material are nevertheless appealable as collateral to the principal action pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 313 (“Collateral Orders”).

A collateral order is an order separable from and collateral to the main cause of action where the right involved is too important to be denied review and the question presented is such that if review is postponed until final judgment in the case, the claim will be irreparably lost. Pa.R.A.P. 313(b). “A discovery order is collateral only when it is separate and distinct from the underlying cause of action.”

An appeal from a discovery order raising a question of the application of a privilege is separable from the underlying issue, so long as the issue of privilege may be addressed by an appellate court without analysis of the underlying issue.

admin. law - appeal - waiver/preservation of issues - Merida v. UCBR distinguished

By an order dated June 5, 2008, this case has now been designated as an opinion, which will be reported and published.


Thanks to David Hill of Philadelphia Legal Assistance for preparing and filing the motion which got this case reported


Ductmate Industries v. UCBR - Commonwealth Court - March 12, 2008

previously reported at

Claimant did not waive any issue when, in appealing from the referee decision, he said only that he "did not agree" with it, and UCBR reversed and granted benefits. The initial determination and referee decision both dealt with a single issue, whether claimant's acts constituted willful misconduct.

The employer argued that claimant's reasons were not specific enough, citing Merida v. UCBR, 543 A.2d 593 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1988) and 34 Pa. Code 101.81(c)(4) both of which require an appellant to state the "reasons for appeal."

The court noted that in Merida there were two hearings. The employer did not attend the intial hearing, and the Board ordered a second one, during which the claimant raised a number of issues. The referee ruled against the claimant, but did not rule on the propriety of the second hearing.

The claimant appealed to the Board, making only the general objection that he did not agree with the referee's decision. The Board affirmed the referee, and the claimant appealed to the Commonwealth Court, arguing only that the Board erred in ordering the second hearing. The court determined that the claimant had waived the issue of the propriety of the second hearing, since he did not specifically bring it to the attention of the Board, which "could not be charged with scouring the record to determine every possible appeal."

In this case, however, there was only one issue - whether claimant's acts constituted willful misconduct. That was the issue decided in both the initial UCSC determination and the Board decision. Citing Black Lick Trucking Co. v. UCBR, 6677 A.2d 454 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1995), the court held that an "inartful appeal" claiming only general disagreement with the referee decision does not prevent the UCBR from addressing the issues ruled on by both the job center/UCSC and referee. The referee should review all issues in the initial determination, and the Board should review all issues the referee considered -- the precise case here.

consumer - payday lending - Consumer Discount Company Law - Loan Interest and Protection Law

Dept. of Banking v. NCAS of Delaware - Pa. Supreme Court - May 29, 2008

Stating that it is "well established that Commonwealth public policy prohibits usurious lending, a prohibition that has been recognized for well over 100 years, " the state supreme court affirmed the decision of the Commonwealth Court, 931 A.2d 771 (2007) in an action brought by the state Department of Banking to prevent the unlicensed defendant lenders from charging consumers fees that exceeded applicable state limits under the Consumer Discount Company Act, 7 P.S. §§6201-6219 (the “CDCA”), and the Loan Interest and Protection Law, 41 P.S. §§101-605 (the “LIPL”).

The court determined that Advance America, a payday lender, was subject to the licensing requirements of the CDCA, since the effective interest rate in its transactions -- more than 300% -- was much higher than the statutory limit of 6%.

Although the stated contract interest rate was 5.98% - just below the 6% limit prescribed by the CDCA - AA also charged consumers $149.95 per month as a "participation fee", which the court said was a charge under the statute that had to be include in the aggregate charges and thus was part of the interest rate determination, because the participation fee was a "necessary condition" of any credit advance by AA and was a "charge inextricably related to the amount actually loaned or advanced."

The court rejected the lender's argument that Delaware law should apply to the case by virtue of a choice-of-law provision in the contract with borrowers, stating that:

a) the case was brought by the state Dept. of Banking, not any individual borrower. The Department was not a party to or bound by the terms of any such contract. The "Department instituted this action pursuant to its police power, not only to protect consumers who had already entered into contracts with Appellant, but more broadly on behalf of the general public to enforce the policy protecting them from usurious lending....When viewed in this light,...the choice-of-law provision in Appellant’s contracts cannot bind the Department in this action to enforce Pennsylvania public policy."

b) even if the contractual provision applied, the Court "has recognized that choice-of-law agreements can be avoided when the terms offend Commonwealth public policy even in disputes between contracting parties....Pennsylvania courts have consistently held that the prohibition of exploitative lending is a fundamental public policy that cannot be circumvented."

c) Although some Pennsylvania statutes permit certain lenders to charge more than the statutory 6% rate under the Loan Interest and Protection Law, 41 P.S. sec. 101 et seq., "violation of any of these statutory provisions will itself offend the public policy of the Commonwealth, as established by the General Assembly."

The court held that its "interpretation harmonizes the remedial purposes of the statute by preventing lenders from charging 'extortionate' fees, while at the same time charging a legal interest rate, thus closing a wide loophole for usurious practices" and agreed with the argument of CLS, an amicus in the case, that this lending vehicle was "an example of the industry’s latest scheme to avoid usury laws....This Court has acknowledged that 'usury is generally accompanied by subterfuge and circumvention of one kind or another to present the color of legality.' ... We agree with the Department, and the amici that Appellant’s interpretation of the statute would undermine the usury laws’ purpose: 'to protect the citizenry of this Commonwealth from being exploited at the hands of unscrupulous individuals seeking to circumvent the law at the expense of unsuspecting borrowers who may have no other avenue to secure financial backing.'"