Tuesday, January 08, 2019

UC - appeal - capricious disregard of competent, relevant evidence


Jamie One, LLC v. UCBR – Cmwlth. Court – January 4, 2019 – unreported** memorandum opinion

The court rejected the employer’s appeal and upheld the grant of benefits.  In the course of its opinion, not otherwise of special value, the court discussed the argument that the Board capriciously disregarded competent, relevant evidence in reaching its decision.  The court discussed this as follows:

Disturbing an agency’s adjudication for a capricious disregard of evidence is appropriate only where the fact finder has refused to resolve conflicts in the evidence, has not made essential credibility determinations or has completely ignored evidence without comment. Wise v. UCBR, 111 A.3d 1256, 1263 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2015). An appellate court conducting a review for capricious disregard of material, competent evidence may not reweigh the evidence or make credibility determinations. Id

Here is the relevant discussion from Wise v.  UCBR – 111 A. 3d 1256, 1262-3 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2015)
A capricious disregard of evidence occurs where the fact finder willfully and deliberately disregards competent and relevant evidence that one of ordinary intelligence could not possibly have avoided in reaching a result. Spencer v. City of Reading Charter Board, 97 A.3d 834, 842 (Pa.Cmwlth.2014). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has explained that review for capricious disregard of competent evidence is an "appropriate component of appellate consideration in every case in which such question is properly before the court." Leon E. Wintermyer, Inc. v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Marlowe), 571 Pa. 189, 812 A.2d 478, 487 (2002). In Wintermyer, the Supreme Court noted that where there is substantial evidence to support the agency's factual findings and those findings support the legal conclusions, "it should remain a rare instance in which an appellate court would disturb an adjudication based upon capricious disregard." Id. at 487 n. 14. The standard 1263*1263 announced in Wintermyer applies whether one or both parties present evidence and, thus, overruled this Court's earlier-announced paradigm that appellate review for capricious disregard of evidence was limited to the circumstance where the burdened party was the only party to present evidence and did not prevail. See, e.g., Lautek Corporation v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 138 Pa. Cmwlth. 547, 588 A.2d 1007, 1010 (1991).
Disturbing an agency's adjudication for a capricious disregard of evidence is appropriate only where the fact-finder has refused to resolve conflicts in the evidence, has not made essential credibility determinations or has completely ignored overwhelming evidence without comment. Hinkle v. City of Philadelphia,881 A.2d 22, 27 (Pa.Cmwlth.2005). In Hinkle, this Court, citing Wintermyer,explained that:
"Capricious disregard" then is just another name for the agency abusing its discretion and is an error of law when the agency fails to give an indication that it has examined countervailing substantive testimony that had to be considered at arriving at its decision.
The capricious disregard standard then is nothing more than a shorthand way of referring to an amalgam of existing overlapping legal and constitutional standards mentioned above that safeguard against arbitrariness by state and local administrative agencies by requiring a meaningful explanation of why the losing party's overwhelming evidence was not accepted.
Id. (footnote omitted). An appellate court conducting a review for capricious disregard of material, competent evidence may not reweigh the evidence or make credibility determinations. Spencer, 97 A.3d at 842 (Pa.Cmwlth.2014) (citing Wintermyer, 812 A.2d at 487-88).

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**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




UC - willful misconduct - claimant did not violate employer rule on "weapons"


Cambria County Transit Authority v. UCBR – Cmwlth. Court – January 8, 2019 – reported opinion


Held: Claimant did not violate employer rule concerning “weapons” by picking up a knife in the employee lounge and putting it right back down.  Board found that claimant did not threaten anyone and that the knife had been in lounge for years and had been used for preparing and cutting food, and the like.  Employer’s HR manager admitted that, in the absence of a threat, possession of a metal knife in the employee’s lounge was not a violation of Employer’s policies.

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