When filing an unexcused late Answer to a Claim Petition, a claimant’s Yellow Freight motion will result in all of the well-pled factual allegations of the Claim Petition being deemed admitted by the workers’ compensation Judge. However, a recent case emerged where an employer faced the repercussions of a Yellow Freight motion, but found relief owing to the claimant’s failure to provide a well-pled injury description in his Claim Petition. In the case of Alvin Hollis v. C&R Laundry Service LLC (WCAB), No. 1233 C.D. 2021, the Commonwealth Court acknowledged that it is not uncommon for a claimant to describe an injury in broad terms. However, in the context of a Yellow Freight motion, the Claim Petition must allege all facts necessary for the claimant to meet the burden of establishing entitlement to an award, and “in the absence of a well-pled allegation regarding the injury and causation, that burden is not met.”
In Hollis, the Court affirmed the Judge’s finding that the claimant’s allegation of a “left rotator cuff pathology” was insufficient to meet the requirements of a well-pled injury, and thus the injury was not admitted by the employer’s failure to provide a timely answer and the claimant’s subsequent Yellow Freight motion. The Court noted that while the claimant adequately identified the injured body part, namely the left rotator cuff, the description of the injury was deficient. The claimant’s description of his injury as a “pathology” was not defined and there was no medical diagnosis provided in his Claim Petition. Furthermore, the Court noted that “pathology,” encompassing all aspects of disease, particularly concerning its essential nature, causes, development of abnormal conditions, and the structural and functional alterations arising from disease processes, could pertain to various conditions or distinct medical diagnoses.
This broad and unidentified nature of the condition as pled in the Claim Petition could lead to future problems in ascertaining the extent of ongoing medical treatment for which the employer might bear responsibility. Since the Claim Petition inadequately pled the injury as “left rotator cuff pathology,” the injury was not deemed admitted under the Yellow Freight motion, and the claimant was not entitled to an assumption of ongoing disability stemming from the injury. Therefore, it was the claimant’s burden to prove the existence of the alleged injury, the work-related cause, and the ongoing disability. Furthermore, the employer was entitled to provide rebuttal evidence. The Judge had reviewed the evidence presented by both parties and found the employer’s expert testimony that the claimant had sustained a “strain and sprain of his shoulder,” from which he had since recovered, was more credible than the evidence presented by the claimant. Therefore, the Court held that the Judge did not err in concluding that the claimant had fully recovered from all of his work-related injuries.