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Significant Legal Updates

Andrew N. Howe, Esq.

In a recent decision in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, a federal court judge ruled that a fully negotiated and executed workers’ compensation compromise and release entered into between an employer and its former employee did not bar a subsequent claim for disability discrimination against the employer under the ADAAA and PHRA on the basis of the same medical condition. In Canfield v. Movie Tavern, Judge Michael Baylson addressed whether an employee waives his or her potential claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act as Amended or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act by settling a workers’ compensation claim by way of a compromise and release.

In reaching this decision finding that the claims were not released, the court distinguished another recent Eastern District decision, Hoggard v Catch, wherein the Hoggard court ruled a compromise and release in that case did bar all subsequent claims of disability. In Canfield, Judge Baylson ruled that the release language contained in the Canfield compromise and release was narrow and limited to workers’ compensation claims only. By way of contrast the Hoggard release language was much broader and barred “all claims and issues” arising out of and related to the injury which was the subject of the compromise and release.

The net result of these decisions is that employers need to be proactive with their workers’ compensation insurers when entering into a compromise and release. Employers have the right to seek broad release language in the compromise and release language to limit or eliminate subsequent disability claims under the ADAAA and PHRA for the same injury that resulted in a payment and release under the workers’ compensation law. Failure to obtain such language can result in subsequent potential additional litigation for the same injury or illness.

If you have any questions regarding these decisions or the issues discussed therein please let me know.




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