Friday, July 08, 2016

UC - accident - negligence v. willful misconduct

General Pipe Cleaning and Sewer v. UCBR – Cmwlth. Court – July 7, 2016 – unpublished* memorandum opinion

The court affirmed the UCBR decision that claimant truck-driver had not committed willful misconduct as a result of his negligence in causing an accident, which caused $100,000 damage.  Substantial evidence supported the Board’s findings that
            a)  claimant was discharged because of the accident, and not a violation of ER rules.
            b) claimant did not deliberately cause the accident – cf. Heitczman v. UCBR, 638 A.2d 461 (claimant knowingly violated ER rule)

Claimant’s actions in causing the accident and the damage to the employer’s vehicle, were clearly negligent. Negligence, however, is not willful. Therefore, as repeatedly held by the courts benefits cannot be denied under Section 402(e) of the Law. See Myers [v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, 625 A.2d 622 (Pa. 1997)]; Navickas [v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, 787 A.2d 284 (Pa. 2001)]; Grieb [v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, 827 A.2d 422 (Pa. 2002).

The courts have repeatedly held that for a rule violation to constitute willful misconduct, the violation must be done knowingly and deliberately. Eshbach v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, 855 A.2d 943 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004); BK Foods, Inc. v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, 547 A.2d 873 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1988); Kriebel v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, 426 A.2d 1240 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1981); Frazier v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, 411 A.2d 580 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1980); Holomshek v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, 395 A.2d 708 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1979). Claimant’s inadvertent conduct here does not amount to willful misconduct.
* An unreported Commonwealth Court case may not be cited binding precedent but can be cited for its persuasive value.  See 210 Pa. Code § 69.414(b) and Pa. R.A.P.  3716

If the case is old, the link may have become stale and may not work, but you can use the case name, court, and date to find the opinion in another source (e.g., Westlaw, Lexis, Google Scholar)