How a Workers’ Compensation Judge Was Reinstated After Shady Political Maneuvering Got Her Fired
The combative tactics of a Philadelphia workers’ compensation law firm may yet prove to be cannibalistic.
The Keystone State, having plummeted from its noble origins as one of the original 13 colonies, is a veritable swamp of closed-door deal making, good old boys’ networks and political vendettas carried out with extreme prejudice.
Let us not forget that this is a state that sees salary increases for legislators passed in the dead of night; where victims of priestly sexual abuse get no protection from lawmakers; and which has some of the weakest campaign finance and public records standards in the country.
Those who would dwell and earn their livings in the public sector in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should tread with caution.
As it relates to insurance, specifically workers’ compensation, the state’s latest “hmmmm” moment came in the form of the firing of workers’ compensation judge Andrea McCormick, who was jettisoned from her position after back channel complaints from a politically connected law firm. Well, ta da! the state’s Civil Service Commission just reinstated her.
It seems McCormick ran afoul of Pond Lehocky, the Philadelphia-based workers’ compensation plaintiffs’ firm. The firm felt that McCormick displayed bias in her rulings involving their clients. So, PL managing partner Sam Pond, according to the excellent reporting of the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s William Bender, sent a dictated email to a member of Gov. Tom Wolf’s cabinet.
“Mike, here is another loss in front of McCormick,” Pond wrote in June of 2017 to Michael Vovakes, deputy secretary of Labor & Industry. Pond speculated that McCormick ruled for employers and insurance carriers “across the board, 100 percent.”
In response, state officials, according to Bender’s story, pulled and analyzed 100 McCormick case files involving PL clients. They found no bias. In fact they found a 50-50 split.
Undeterred, PLSG tried a different approach. In the summer of 2018, the firm tipped off Labor Secretary Gerard “Jerry” Olesiak that McCormick was in a romantic relationship with another workers’ compensation lawyer who was a frequent critic of Pond Lehocky. That resulted in a search of McCormick’s emails.
State officials found McCormick used her work computer to shop online, circulated nonpublic case information and conducted additional personal business such as sharing photos. She was then terminated.
The State’s Civil Service Commission, finding no substantive impropriety on McCormick’s part, reinstated her with back pay in November.
The McCormick case is not the only instance in the past couple of years in which the good fellows at PL have forked up unsavory headlines.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, again doing more than its bit to ensure Democracy, reported in September of 2017 that Sam Pond and other partners in the firm were majority owners of a mail-order pharmacy that was selling compound creams for use in workers’ compensation cases.
Claims managers know this drill. Compounds with dubious medical benefit being sold at outrageous markups.
As soon as the Inquirer aired this information, the PL partners sold their interest in the pharmacy.
More recently, founding partner David Stern has gone to battle with Pond, alleging oppressive professional tactics. &