The year 1976 marked the Bicentennial of the Independence of the United States of America. It also marked the founding of a new law firm, richly experienced in civil litigation, with a mission to confront the dramatic and far reaching 1972 amendments to the Act. In 1976, insurers and employers continued to sort out the effects of these statutory changes with litigation and appeal of test cases on important issues. (1996 posed a similar challenge with further changes to the Workers' Compensation Act.) Recognizing the need for a specialized defense litigation firm in this expanding field of workers' compensation, Leonard Kane and Roy Walters, senior partners in the Pittsburgh law firm of Brandt, McManus, Brandt and Malone, formed a partnership with Carl Fried, a former Workers' Compensation Judge, and established their office in the Gateway Center.
Both Leonard and Roy enjoyed extensive experience in civil trial litigation and jointly handled all of the PMA defense work for workers' compensation in Allegheny County and the surrounding region, dating back to 1956. Following his tenure as a Workers' Compensation Judge, Carl Fried became associated with Irwin Ringgold, the Dean of the Workers' Compensation Defense Bar. At its inception, Fried, Kane, and Walters numbered among its initial clients some of the largest and most active insurance companies in Western Pennsylvania, including, but not limited to, Hartford Insurance Group, Aetna Life & Casualty Company, Fireman's Fund, Kemper Insurance Group, Ohio Casualty Company, and Transamerica Insurance Group. Additionally, the firm represented Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation/LTV at the height of its industrial production, as well as many other heavy industry and specialty steel companies, including self-insured employers.
This new law firm participated in many of the early appellate court decisions which dramatically shaped the nature of our present day workers' compensation practice. Leonard Kane represented the employer in the Pearlman case in which the Commonwealth Court expanded the definition of "injury" to include psychic or emotional factors. Roy Walters successfully tried the often cited Krawczynski v. Universal Cyclops case, which changed the scope of review in workers' compensation cases, removing the fact finding function from the Appeal Board and placing it upon the Judge. Carl Fried tried the Jones & Laughlin Steel Company case in the state Supreme Court, which permitted a disabled worker to elect a remedy for lost wage benefits or benefits for specific loss of use.
As the firm's growth kept pace with expansion in workers' compensation insurance litigation, Noble Zuschlag, a partner in the firm of Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote, joined with Fried, Kane, and Walters. Noble worked in various capacities in the insurance industry since his days as a claims adjuster for Nationwide in the mid 1950's and was lead counsel in Dickie, McCamey's workers' compensation defense section. He brought a new dimension to the firm with his experience in insurance coverage, underwriting, rating and procedural issues. As a Greenville, Pennsylvania native, he was well versed and familiar with travel and litigation in the northern counties.
Two years later Joseph Grochmal, an aggressive, accomplished private practitioner and former solicitor to the Controller, joined this firm. Joe brought with him a finely honed trial background and an imaginative approach that produced prompt, affirmative results in complex litigation. Joe was named partner in the firm during 1982. Acknowledging its principals, the firm's name was changed in 1979 to Fried, Kane, Walters & Zuschlag.
As we entered the 1980's, the workers' compensation practice once again experience a period of change and presentation of new legal questions. As industry began to feel the effects of global competition, high wage and benefit demands, a result was work place reductions and shut downs, an unwelcome but common occurrence throughout Western Pennsylvania. The trauma claim, as a result of injury within heavy industry, slowly diminished as new types of disability claims slowly evolved. In keeping with technological advances in business and medical communities, disability claims introduced new concepts, such as work-related cardiac stress, disability with an emotional or psychological basis, a plethora of occupationally related disease and aggravation of non-occupational medical conditions.
A line of unique Pennsylvania case law precedents, established 15 years earlier as a result of the Supreme Court's landmark decisions in the Petrone and Barrett cases, imposed a difficult and seemingly unfair burden upon employers desiring to modify total disability benefit payments. The burden of proof shifted to the employer to establish lighter or modified duty work to an injured employee when he proved he could no longer return to his full employment duties. Experts in vocational placement and rehabilitation confronted these issues. These legal developments spawned litigation focused upon job availability and the appropriateness of alternative employment opportunities.
In the years that followed, Fried, Kane, Walters & Zuschlag measured its need and hired additional attorneys, swelling its number to ten.
Recognizing the contribution by Joseph Grochmal to the overall growth and stature of the firm, in 1992 the firm name was changed to Fried, Kane, Walters, Zuschlag & Grochmal to acknowledge this personal contribution. At this juncture, Fried, Kane, Walters, Zuschlag & Grochmal became one of the largest law firms in Western Pennsylvania to specialize exclusively in defense litigation of workers' compensation cases on behalf of insurance companies and self-insured employers.
Insurance claims representatives, administrators of self-insurance programs, personnel directors, vocational placement specialists, and attorneys exposed to the injury reports, litigation, and resolution of workers' compensation claims are well acquainted with the unusual or complex factual circumstances which may arise with work injuries or occupational disease claims. The attorneys at Fried, Kane, Walters, Zuschlag & Grochmal have developed areas of personal interest within our legal practice to effectively manage the challenging situations presented for handling. We find that individual areas of interest within our specialized practice of law allow this firm to maintain a high level of knowledge and experience as claims may require a degree of medical knowledge in addition to a thorough understanding of case law precedent. In this administrative law system, where the Workers' Compensation Judge is the fact finder, this individual may demonstrate preferences or tendencies based upon our past litigation experience. For this reason, we make geographic assignments, such that we service the needs of our clients throughout Western Pennsylvania, but we also maintain a high level of contact with the insurer, the local employer, and the Workers' Compensation Judge in each county.
In 1988 James B. Hudzik, Esq. joined the firm. James is a University of Pittsburgh graduate and was a Superior Court law clerk for ten years. In that capacity, Jim researched and drafted hundreds of appellate court decisions on a wide range of legal issues. After coming to FKWZ&G, he successfully concluded two decades of litigation in Bigley v. Unity Auto Parts to establish that the worker was not within the scope of his employment while accepting a ride home from the employer. Jim has an extensive trial background and has fit comfortably within the defense-oriented fabric of the firm. Jim also has developed a specialty in the defense of Federal Black Lung claims. He is a competent and experienced practitioner in this technically and procedurally complex area of law. This experience is directly relevant to the occupational disease issues faced by many of the heavy industry employers in Western Pennsylvania. In addition to an impressive case load, James currently manages the Firm.
Another addition to the firm, James Mazzotta, was a 1988 Duquesne Law School graduate, with an impressive law school background, including a staff position with the Duquesne Law Review. Upon joining the firm, Jim was placed on the front lines of battle. Through hard work and dedicated effort, Jim has established a reputation as a formidable and accomplished practitioner. He has handled much of the research and writing necessary before the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, Commonwealth Court, and The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, including Heart & Lung litigation. Jim has also become well versed in the issues dealing with review of medical expenses, particularly repetitive treatments such as physical therapy and chiropractic care. This experience has assisted many clients in effectively managing unyielding claims regarding medical issues.
In 1992, the firm hired its first female attorney, Rhonda Rudman. Rhonda is an accomplished legal writer and speaker. Her theater and drama background have served her well to handle the tasks of case arguments and informational speaking assignments to both the workers' compensation Bar and our clients. Since joining the firm, she has developed a subspecialty in the areas concerning workers' compensation law and the inter-relationship with the Americans with Disabilities Act including vocational development. Accordingly, Rhonda adds additional diversification and depth to an already accomplished cast.
With these qualifications, Fried, Kane, Walters, Zuschlag & Grochmal feels that it can competently handle and successfully conclude the problems and questions presented in the specialty of workers' compensation and occupational disease claim litigation.
The firm cordially invites you to consider its resources and services to assist your company in addressing your questions or concerns within this specialized area of law.