In Merrell v. WCAB, 2017 WL 1210197 (April 3, 2017), the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court held that a decision by a Heart & Lung arbitrator that a claimant was disabled and thus entitled to Heart & Lung benefits was not binding on the Workers’ Compensation Judge.
The Commonwealth Court held that there is a two part inquiry when considering whether Collateral Estoppel applies to a Workers’ Comp proceeding; the amount of risk and the governing procedures in the two proceedings. The Commonwealth Court held that the amount of risk involved in a Heart & Lung arbitration and a workers’ compensation proceeding are substantially different because Heart & Lung benefits cease once a disability is deemed to be permanent whereas workers’ compensation benefits can last a lifetime.
In addition, the court held that the procedures in a Heart & Lung arbitration are much less formal, and therefore substantially different than a workers’ compensation proceeding. Opinion by Leavitt, P.J.