On October 17, 2018, the Commonwealth Court issued three decisions on companion cases that addressed the relationship between the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act and the Ridesharing Act. See Wang v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (New Li Nail Spa, Inc.), No. 1465 C.D. 2017 (Pa. Cmwlth. Ct. 2018); Li v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (New Li Nail Spa, Inc.), No 1332 C.D. 2017 (Pa. Cmwlth Ct. 2018); Zhou v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (New Li Nail Spa, Inc.), No. 1367 C.D. 2017 (Pa. Cmwlth. Ct. 2018).
In the above noted cases, petitions were filed on behalf of the decedents who were involved in a fatal motor vehicle accident on December 15, 2013 while being transported to work by the president of their employer. The matters were litigated as companion cases and the WCJ handling the matters denied the claim petitions on multiple basis; all which were appealed and affirmed by the WCAB.
On appeal to the Commonwealth Court, the court addressed the interplay between the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act and the Ridesharing Act. In doing so, they noted that in the three above noted cases, the decedents worked at a nail salon and were provided lodging by their employer approximately fifteen minutes from the employer’s location. On a daily basis, the employer offered transportation to its employees (including the decedents) via a van that was driven by the employer’s president.
Notably, the Commonwealth Court indicated that Section 3 of the Ridesharing Act specifically states that the Workers’ Compensation Act “shall not apply to a passenger injured while participating in a ridesharing arrangement between such passenger’s place of residence and place of employment.” The Court further noted that Section 1 of the Ridesharing Act defines “ridesharing arrangement” in relevant part, as follows:
(1) The transportation of more than 15 passengers where the transportation is incidental to another purpose of the driver who is not engaged in transportation as a business. The term shall include ridesharing arrangements commonly known as carpools and vanpools, used in the transportation of employees to or from their place of employment.
(2) The transportation of employees to or from their place of employment in a motor vehicle owned or operated by their employer.
55 P.S. § 695.1
In applying its analysis, the Commonwealth Court looked to the underlying WCJ decisions/orders in which the WCJ found that the employer transported the decedents to/from work each day, as the employer needed her employees in order to run her business. Because the employer transported her employees to/from her place of employment each day in a motor vehicle owned and operated by the employer, and because the employer was not in the business of transportation, the Commonwealth Court found that a ridesharing arrangement was established. Therefore, the claimant’s filing the actions were barred from pursuing any claims under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act.