V. C. Short, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
Sam R. Keller, Pittsburgh, for appellee.
Before Rhodes, P. J., and Hirt, Reno, Dithrich, Ross, Arnold and Gunther, JJ.
[ 170 Pa. Super. Page 461]
The claimant in this workmen's compensation case is the widow of Robert A. Hall, who was killed on the premises of his employer by a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The compensation authorities' award was sustained by the court below and the employer took this appeal.
Hall was employed by the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh as a clerk in the chemical storeroom. One of his duties was to make an annual inventory of the chemicals in the storeroom and on the evening of May 4, 1949, he was engaged in making the usual annual inventory.
The storeroom in which the chemicals were kept was separated from the office of Miss Clara Jane Douglas, an associate professor of chemistry, by a corridor some six feet wide. A dispute centers around the question of whether Hall's duties required him to be in the office of Miss Douglas at any time, but she stated that it was necessary for him to be in her office on the night of May 4, 1949 to 'consult about supplies for the laboratory. If necessary, to take stock of the chemicals'.
At about eight o'clock that night Hall was taking inventory of the chemicals in the storeroom. About one-half hour later he entered Miss Douglas' office, accompanied by Charles Osterritter. Osterritter was at that time a 'special policeman' employed by the appellant school to patrol its campus and to aid in the performance of his duties he carried a revolver. In the room, Osterritter invited Miss Douglas to inspect his gun 'to feel it to see how heavy it was'. When she hesitated, he assured her that it was empty and, by way of proof, exhibited '4 or 6' bullets in his left hand. Reassured, Miss Douglas handled the gun momentarily and then returned it to Osterritter. Thereafter, according to Miss Douglas, the gun was 'passing back and
[ 170 Pa. Super. Page 462]
forth' between Osteritter and Hall until the latter, without explanation, 'put the gun to his head' and pulled the trigger. The 'empty' gun fired and Hall fell dead. The elapsed time between Hall's entry into the office and the fatal shot was 'not more than 5 minutes'. Osterritter, called as a witness by the appellant, corroborated Miss Douglas' version of the unfortunate incident up to the point at which she returned the revolver to him. Then, according to his testimony, he reloaded the gun, placed it in the holster and started to leave the room. After moving a few feet, he was 'grabbed' by the neck by Hall, who then took the gun and turned it against himself.
Since the compensation authorities found in her favor, it is well established that the evidence must be read in the light most favorable to the claimant. The referee, affirmed by the board, found that Hall 'was accidentally shot by himself' and the further 'fact that there was no evidence of suicide', and the evidence sustains these findings. Realizing that the credibility of the witnesses was for the compensation authorities and also that it had the burden of proving suicide, the appellant, understandably, does not press that defense before us although it was interposed before the compensation authorities and in argument before the court below.
The only substantial question involved in this appeal is whether Hall suffered his injury 'in the course of his employment'. This is a question of law subject to review by us. Haas v. Brotherhood of Transportation Workers, 158 Pa. Super. 291, 44 A.2d 776. 'Under the Compensation Act, an injury in the course of employment embraces all injuries received while engaged in furthering the business of the employer and ...