Written By: Robert L. Buzzendore, Esquire
A recent unemployment compensation case highlights the importance of filing an appeal on time and maintaining proof that it was filed on time. Time deadlines are very important especially when it relates to the jurisdiction of a court or administrative agency. The failure to file an appeal within the required time eliminates the ability of a court or administrative agency from hearing your case because it lacks jurisdiction.
If an appeal deadline is missed, the attorney has usually committed malpractice. This is why our firm has a double and triple check system to ensure a deadline is never missed. However, there are times when outside factors may cause an appeal deadline to be missed. Depending on those circumstances, one may still be able to file an appeal.
In Bankers Life & Casualty v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, an attorney appealed the denial of his client’s unemployment compensation benefits. The attorney mailed the appeal on the last day, December 26, 2017. He sent the appeal via certified mail to the correct address of the UC Service Center.
On January 6, 2018, the Post Office returned the mail as ‘undeliverable’ for an unknown reason. On January 31, 2018, the attorney faxed the appeal to the Service Center.
The referee held a hearing on whether the appeal was timely filed when the deadline was December 26, 2017, but the appeal was not received until January 31, 2018. The attorney testified that he mailed letters on the same date as he signed his letters. He used certified mail which was deposited in the mailbox.
The referee determined the appeal was not filed on time even though the referee agreed with the attorney that it was properly addressed and it was unknown why the Post Office returned it. The referee based his decision on the fact that the postmark was not legible and as a result, it could not be proven that the appeal was mailed on time.
The attorney appealed to the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review. The attorney produced a clear copy of the postmark, but the Board would not consider it because it was not submitted as evidence before the referee. The Board affirmed the referee’s decision.
The attorney appealed to the Commonwealth Court which reversed the Board’s decision and permitted the appeal to proceed due to the extraordinary circumstance of a breakdown in the system. The Court relied on the effort made by the attorney to fax the appeal after it was returned as undeliverable by the Post Office. The Court considered the returned appeal to be a breakdown in the system and not the result of attorney negligence.
It is important to note the Court did not rely on the attorney’s testimony that he mailed it on time because the legible postmark was not part of the evidence. Thus, the appeal was not filed on time, but it was allowed to proceed due to the Post Office’s breakdown, which inexplicably returned the mail, and the fact that the attorney faxed the appeal after it was returned to him.
Regardless whether it is an appeal deadline or any other deadline mentioned in a court or agency document, it is important to comply with those deadlines. The failure to comply with a deadline can cause you to lose important rights. Do not ignore a deadline or think the matter will ‘go away’ if it is ignored.
You should immediately contact our law office in York, Shrewsbury, or Mt. Wolf regarding any questions you have about deadlines in a court or agency document. The more time you provide to us, the better we can prepare the necessary document to protect your interests.