An initially unreported Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court decision was recently ordered to be reported, and to the substantial benefit of injured workers. Sharon Tube Co. v. W.C.A.B. (Buzard) reinforces the notion that the last bureau document in time is “controlling” with respect to the disability status of the claimant. Specifically, the court reinforced the principle that in a modification situation, the employer has the burden of showing that the employee’s disability has changed after the date of the last supplemental agreement.

The facts in Sharon Tube Co. are rather common. The claimant, Daniel Buzard, was injured on the job on Nov. 13, 1995, and began receiving compensation benefits consistent with a Workers’ Compensation Judges (WCJ) decision. On July 21, 2003, Buzard attempted a return to work, but was experiencing a wage loss. The employer unilaterally modified the claimant’s benefits to reflect his actual earnings and also sent the claimant a supplemental agreement dated July 25, 2003, signed by the employer’s representative. That supplemental agreement was never signed by the claimant. One week later, Buzard was taken out of work by his treating doctor.

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