Who Decides if You’re Telling the Truth?

By: Sandra Weigel Kokal

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in an upcoming case to decide whether the Commonwealth Court overstepped its appellate function in making credibility judgments which is the sole function of the workers’ compensation judge.

In workers’ compensation cases, the law has held the workers’ compensation judge (WCJ) is the sole fact finder. The WCJ has sole power to assess the credibility of witnesses and resolve any conflicts in the evidence presented in a workers’ compensation case. The WCJ as the ultimate fact finder has the authority and power to evaluate and weigh the evidence. The WCJ may accept or reject any evidence in whole or in part.

In the upcoming case to be heard by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the Court will decide if the Commonwealth Court erred in rejecting the WCJ’s findings. The WCJ in this case had found the testimony of an IRE physician insufficient to grant the Employer’s Modification Petition. The Commonwealth Court did not accept this finding.

Prior Pennsylvania Supreme Court case have upheld this power of the WCJ and have stated that Commonwealth Court has abused its discretion in usurping the function of the WCJ. Again, the WCJ is the ultimate fact finder and it is not the function of the appellate courts to ignore or reweigh the WCJ’s findings. The PA Supreme Court will again decide this issue.



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