question mark 2492009 640

What Do You Think: Is Paraplegic Entitled to Cost of Parents’ New House?

01 May, 2023 Chris Parker

question mark 2492009 640

Souderton, PA ( – In Pennsylvania, injured workers who are entitled to the purchase price of a wheelchair or other orthopedic device may also be entitled to the cost of home modifications necessary to use the device.

But what if it’s not possible to modify the injured worker’s existing home? Can the employee recoup the cost of purchasing a new home that will allow her to use the device or that can be appropriately modified?

A case involving a childcare worker who injured her spine addresses that question. As a result of the workplace injury, the employee became a paraplegic and suffered from bowel and bladder problems.
Prior to and after the accident, the worker lived in her parents’ home. But the parents found that their existing home could not be modified to accommodate their daughter’s wheelchair.

A worker’s compensation judge awarded the worker $35,000 toward the cost of modifying a new home that the parents purchased. But the judge refused to award the purchase price of the home.
The employee challenged that decision in court.

The Pennsylvania’s Workers' Compensation Act provides that in addition to work-related medical treatment, "the employer shall provide payment for . . . services and supplies and orthopedic appliances, and prostheses." Section 306(f.1)(1)(ii).

Courts have interpreted the requirement to pay for "orthopedic appliances" to cover the construction of home modifications in order to use orthopedic appliances (such as making a house wheelchair accessible). Griffiths v. Workers' Comp. Appeal Bd., 943 A.2d 242 (Pa. 2008).

Must the employer pay the cost of modifiable house?

A. No. Construction of home modifications doesn’t include the cost of buying a house.

B. Yes. Given that the old house was not modifiable, the parents had to buy a new house.

If you chose A, you sided with the court in Davies v. All My Children, No. 1244 C.D. 2021 (Pa. Comm’w Ct. 04/26/23), which held that the paraplegic childcare worker was not entitled to the purchase price of her parents’ house as part of her worker’s compensation benefits.

The court found that the purchase of a house extends the phrase “orthopedic appliances” beyond a reasonable construction. If a wheelchair is necessary, the court observed, then it logically follows that modifications needed to facilitate the use of the appliance must also be considered a necessity. But the purchase of a house is not itself a modification, the court indicated. If affirmed the order of the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board.
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