Time To File Hepatitis C Claim Begins Running On Day Of Diagnosis

Frank Sites has worked for the City of Philadelphia both as a firefighter and as an emergency medical technician since 1966. On December 6, 1999, Sites was diagnosed with hepatitis C. A couple days later, Sites filed a workers’ compensation claim.

Under Pennsylvania law, hepatitis C is presumed to be an on-the-job injury for firefighters. When the City nonetheless denied his claim, Sites appealed to Pennsylvania’s Common Law Court, Pennsylvania’s Court of Appeals.

The primary issue before the Court was when Pennsylvania’s three-year statute of limitation for filing workers’ compensation claims should be run. The City contended that Sites should have known about his hepatitis as early as 1993, when a blood test showed that he had some elevated liver enzyme levels.

The Court rejected the City’s arguments, finding that the statute of limitations begins to run from the date that a workers’ compensation claimant learns that his disability is caused by an occupational disease. The Court observed that “while we recognize that a claimant can gain knowledge of total disability due to occupational disease by means other than a medical diagnosis, nonetheless we believe there is a strong presumption that discovery of an occupational disease resulting in total disability first occurs when a competent medical diagnosis is made known to the claimant.”

City of Philadelphia v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Sites), 2005 WL 3478348 (Pa.Cmwlth. 2005).

This article appears in the February 2006 issue