The Workers Comp Carrier May Not Unilaterally Pursue Its Subrogated Lien Against the Tortfeasor Without Including the Injured Worker as a Plaintiff
In Liberty Mutual Ins. Co. v. Domtar Paper Co., ___ A.3d ___, 2015 WL 1888572, decided April 27, 2015, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court addressed the ability of a workers’ comp carrier alone to assert a claim to recover its lien against the third party tortfeasor, where the injured worker has not asserted a tort claim against the tortfeasor. In Domtar Paper, the Supreme Court appeared to clarify its 2012 ruling in Frazier v. Workers’ Comp Appeals Board, 52 A.3d 241 (Pa. 2012). Frazier dealt with whether a workers comp lien could be asserted against a governmental agency as the tortfeasor, otherwise immune from liability. Frazier’s Footnote 10 appeared to permit the employer (or workers comp insurer) to make its own claim for lien recovery against the tortfeasor where the injured plaintiff himself made no such claim:
While not directly implicated by this case, we note that normally in subrogation, the right of action lies in the injured employee, and the action for subrogation against the third-party tortfeasor is brought in the employee’s name. Nonetheless, an “employer … is not to be denied his right of suit [in subrogation] because the employee does not sue [the third-party tortfeasor], but may institute the action in the latter’s name.” Scalise v. F.M. Venzie & Co., 301 Pa. 315, 152 A. 90, 92 (1930).