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DEBATTISTE v. ANTHONY LAUDADIO & SON ET AL. (07/20/50)

July 20, 1950

DEBATTISTE
v.
ANTHONY LAUDADIO & SON ET AL.



COUNSEL

Robert H. Arronson and Herbert H. Hadra, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Robert A. Detweiler, David Fulmer Keely, Charles W. Sweeney, and George H. Detweiler, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Before Rhodes, P. J., and Hirt, Reno, Dithrich, Ross and Arnold, JJ.

Author: Rhodes

[ 167 Pa. Super. Page 39]

RHODES, President Judge.

This is a workmen's compensation case in which the Workmen's Compensation Board made an award in favor of claimant for partial disability. The principal question presented on this appeal is whether certain motion pictures taken by agents of the insurance carrier and showing claimant performing his ordinary work as a laborer for a cement contractor irrefutably established that claimant was not partially disabled during the period in question.

Claimant was injured on November 8, 1945, in the course of his employment when thrown from his employer's truck in a collision. He filed a claim petition on December 5, 1945, and on May 16, 1946, the referee made an award of compensation of $20 a week for total disability until February 21, 1946, at which time claimant returned to work. In his original order of May 16, 1946, the referee found that 'although the claimant has returned to work February 21, 1946, with no loss in earnings, he still has a definite disability as a result of the accident in this case.' The referee then entered an order suspending compensation as of February 21, 1946, 'until such time as the disability of the claimant * * * reflects itself in a definite loss in earning capacity.' Cf. Holtz v. McGraw & Bindley, 161 Pa. Super. 371, 54 A.2d 905.

On June 17, 1946, claimant filed a petition alleging that his former wage rate of one dollar an hour was reduced to fifty cents per hour as of May 1, 1946. After hearings, the referee awarded compensation at the rate

[ 167 Pa. Super. Page 40]

    of $4.80 per week on the basis of a 15 per cent partial disability, although he found claimant's wages had been reduced from $1 to 50 cents per hour, or from $48 to $24 per week. Claimant appealed to the Board which, in its opinion of September 15, 1948, modified the referee's order, and awarded claimant compensation for partial disability from May 1, 1946, reflected in a fifty per cent loss of earning power, at the rate of $16 per week until such time as the disability should cease or change. Both claimant and the defendant insurance carrier appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. Over claimant's objection, counsel for the defendant insurance carrier then exhibited to the court certain motion pictures taken by its investigators. Before the court of common pleas handed down its decision, the defendant insurance carrier filed a petition with the Board for recall of the record and for a rehearing. The insurance carrier's petition was granted by the Board for the purpose of viewing the motion pictures. After viewing the pictures the Board held that they were not conclusive on the question of claimant's continuing partial disability, and on September 28, 1949, handed down an opinion republishing its former findings, conclusions, and award.*fn1 With reference to the 400 feet of film presented by the carrier, showing claimant doing heavy work, and taken on April 30, May 1, 2, 27, and 28, 1947, the Board stated: 'They [the motion pictures] disclosed claimant's activity for a total period of twenty minutes and took sixteen minutes to show. The five reels were fastened together and do not show claimant's continuous activity for any extended period of time. They show that claimant

[ 167 Pa. Super. Page 41]

    was able to do some work but we still believe that claimant is partially disabled and suffers a loss of earning power. The films have not persuaded us that claimant has made a complete recovery from his injuries. The claimant's medical evidence and the testimony of the impartial physician concerning claimant's disability are more convincing to us than the 'excerpts' of claimant's activity as presented by the films.' From this order of the Board both parties appealed to the court of common pleas. Claimant contended that he should receive an award for total disability; and the carrier claimed that claimant suffered no loss of earning power and that there should be no award of compensation. The court of common pleas held that the motion pictures furnished incontrovertible proof that claimant suffered no disability: 'The authenticity of these pictures is not questioned. The claimant was present when they were shown before the Referee and is easily recognizable. They were taken by investigators employed by the insurance carrier and show the claimant at work, for the same employer for whom he worked at the time of the accident, on various masonry and construction 'jobs.' He can be seen lifting and carrying long planks, lifting and carrying 95 pound bags of cement, mixing concrete in a trough with a hoe, and lifting a contractor's iron wheelbarrow above shoulder height to place it in a truck. The pictures were taken on April 30, May 1 and May 2, 1947 and on May 27 and May 28, 1948 [1947] at various time of day, including the late afternoon working hours.' After stating the Board's reaction to ...


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