In Pennsylvania, an employer is liable for compensation for personal injury to or death of an employee from an injury in the course of their employment.40 An injury need not be pinpointed to a specific event or definable incident as long as the injury arises in the course of employment and is related thereto.41 The compensation is paid by the employer without regard to negligence.42
At a most basic level, the claimant’s burden is to prove that their injury arose in the course of employment and was related thereto.43
“That burden is satisfied if he proves his alleged disability either ‘results from the injury or is aggravated, reactivated or accelerated by the injury’…”44 “Where medical testimony is necessary to establish a causal connection, the medical witness must testify, not that the injury or condition might have or possibly came from the assigned cause, but that in his professional opinion the result in question did come from the assigned cause.”45
COVID-19 does not meet the definition of an occupational disease under The Pennsylvania Occupational Disease Act.
The burden of proof is on the employee to establish that the injury (COVID-19) was from work. Unless the initial source for the exposure was identified, it is going to be difficult to establish that the employee could only have been exposed to COVID-19
at work. Further, if not all employees at work test positive, an initial source cannot be identified. If the claimant’s family members/friends test positive, it will further muddy the waters as to the source of COVID-19. While those working in the medical field may be given the benefit of the doubt by the judges, we do not believe the presumption will extend to employees as a whole.
40 Section 301(a) of the Act.
41 WCAB (Young) v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 352 A.2d 571 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1976).
18 Section 301(a) of the Act.
19 Chik-Fil-A v. WCAB (Mollick), 792 A.2d 678 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2002).
44 Fotta v. Workmen’s Comp. Appeal Bd. (U.S. Steel/USX Corp. Maple Creek Mine), 626 A.2d 1144, 1146 (Pa. 1993) (citing 77 P.S. § 411(1)).
45 Fotta at 1146.