Don't Miss
Home / Fulltext Opinions / Supreme Court of Virginia / PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY SERVICE AUTHORITY, ET AL v. HARPER

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY SERVICE AUTHORITY, ET AL v. HARPER


PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY SERVICE
AUTHORITY, ET AL v. HARPER


September 18, 1998
Record No. 971519

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY
SERVICE AUTHORITY, ET AL.
v.

LORRAINE HARPER

OPINION BY JUSTICE LEROY R. HASSELL, SR.

FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS OF VIRGINIA
Present: All the Justices

We consider whether an employee’s false statement on an
employment application, that she had not been convicted of a
felony, bars her receipt of workers’ compensation benefits.
Lorraine M. Harper pled guilty to the felonies of insurance fraud
and criminal conspiracy in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on
June 5, 1992. On July 30, 1993, she completed an application for
employment with the Prince William County Service Authority. The
employment application contained the following question:
"Have you ever been convicted of a law violation, including
moving traffic violations but excluding offenses committed before
your eighteenth birthday which were finally adjudicated in a
Juvenile Court or under a Youth Offender Law? You may omit
traffic violations for which you paid $30.00 or less."
Harper responded, "no" when she answered this question.
The employment application also contained the following
certification: "I hereby certify that this application is a
complete record and that all entries given are true and accurate
to the best of my knowledge. I understand that any attempt to
practice deception or fraud in this application is grounds for
disqualification or dismissal." Harper concealed her felony
convictions when she completed the employment application.
Harper, who was hired as a wastewater treatment plant operator
trainee with the Prince William County Service Authority,
sustained injuries to her left wrist and coccyx while performing
her duties on June 14, 1994. Harper and the Authority executed
agreements providing for the payment of disability benefits for
certain time she missed from work.
In February 1995, Harper filed an application for benefits based
upon a change in condition with the Workers’ Compensation
Commission (Commission), seeking disability benefits for various
periods from January 1995 through July 1995. During the course of
that proceeding, the Authority learned that Harper had failed to
disclose her felony convictions.
At a hearing before a deputy commissioner, Sherry Boyce,
personnel director for the Authority, testified that the
Authority does not automatically disqualify employment applicants
who have felony convictions, but that each applicant with a
felony conviction is considered on "a case-by-case
basis." Boyce testified that the Authority would not have
hired Harper had she disclosed her felony convictions because of
the nature and recent date of the convictions.
Harper resigned from her employment with the Authority before it
became aware of her felony convictions. Boyce testified that had
Harper been employed at the time the Authority learned of her
misrepresentations, it would have terminated her employment.
The Authority asserted before the deputy commissioner that Harper
is barred from receiving workers’ compensation benefits because
of her false representations. The deputy commissioner, rejecting
the Authority’s assertion, concluded that Harper’s "felony
conviction[s] would not have automatically resulted in the
[Authority's] rejection of her employment application. The
falsehood itself did not contribute to the nature of her injury,
which would prevent benefits as in those cases where a claimant
lied about her physical condition." The deputy commissioner
entered an award in favor of Harper against the Authority.
The Authority appealed the deputy commissioner’s determination to
the Commission which also rejected the Authority’s contention.
The Authority appealed the Commission’s award to the Court of
Appeals, which affirmed the Commission’s decision, holding that
the evidence of record failed to demonstrate that "the
misrepresentation, that Harper had not committed a crime, was
causally related to Harper’s injury." Prince William
County Serv. Auth.
v. Harper, 25 Va. App. 166, 170,
487 S.E.2d 246, 248 (1997). The Authority appeals.
Relying upon Marval Poultry Co. v. Johnson, 224 Va.
597, 299 S.E.2d 343 (1983), the Authority argues that since
Harper obtained employment through fraud or material
misrepresentation, she is barred from receiving workers’
compensation benefits because there is no valid contract of hire
and she may not benefit from her fraudulent conduct. Continuing,
the Authority asserts that a causal relationship exists between
Harper’s misrepresentation and her work-related injury because
had she revealed her felony convictions, she would not have been
hired and the employer-employee relationship would not have
existed. We find no merit in the Authority’s contentions.
In Falls Church Constr. Co. v. Laidler, 254 Va.
474, 477-78, 493 S.E.2d 521, 523 (1997), we stated the following
principles which are pertinent here:
"An employee’s false representation in an employment
application will bar a later claim for workers’ compensation
benefits if the employer proves that 1) the employee
intentionally made a material false representation; 2) the
employer relied on that misrepresentation; 3) the employer’s
reliance resulted in the consequent injury; and 4) there is a
causal relationship between the injury in question and the
misrepresentation."

Applying these principles, we hold that Harper is not barred from
receiving workers’ compensation benefits because the Authority
failed to adduce evidence which established a causal relationship
between her work-related injury and her misrepresentation of her
criminal record. Boyce’s testimony that the Authority would not
have hired Harper had it been aware of her felony convictions is
not sufficient to demonstrate the existence of a causal
relationship between Harper’s work-related injury and her
misrepresentation.
We reject the Authority’s contention that our decision in Marval
bars Harper’s receipt of workers’ compensation benefits. In Marval,
we considered whether an employee was entitled to workers’
compensation benefits after the employee was discharged by his
employer for dishonesty. As we recently explained, "[o]ur
holding in Marval did not address issues of reliance or
causation. Rather, we held only that the justified termination
of an employee for dishonesty barred his later claim for benefits
under a change in condition application." Laidler,
254 Va. at 478, 493 S.E.2d at 523. Hence, Marval is
inapposite to this case in which the issue of causation is
dispositive.
For the foregoing reasons, we conclude that the Court of Appeals
properly affirmed the Commission’s decision. See Code
? 65.2-706. Therefore, we will affirm the judgment of the
Court of Appeals.
Affirmed.

Scroll To Top