Appeal, No. 25, Oct. T., 1955, from order of Court of Common Pleas No. 5 of Philadelphia County, Dec. T., 1953, No. 7248, in case of Anna M. Leber, widow of Harry C. Leber, deceased, v. I. Naftulin and Coal Operators' Casualty Company. Order reversed. Appeal by defendant's insurer from award by Workmen's Compensation Board.
J. Webster Jones, for appellant.
Alexander F. Barbieri, for appellee.
Before Rhodes, P.j., Ross, Wright, Woodside, and Ervin, JJ. (hirt, and Gunther, JJ., absent).
[ 179 Pa. Super. Page 24]
In this workmen's compensation case, the employer's insurance carrier has appealed from an award of compensation to the widow of a deceased employe, Harry C. Leber.
Claimant's husband was a paper hanger in the employ of the defendant for some time prior to June 20, 1951. He was in excellent health, and on this day he reported to work as usual and was assigned to repaper one of the walls of a new house. At about 11 a.m. one of his fellow workmen found him sitting in a dazed condition near the foot of a ladder on which he had been working. He was red in the neck and head and had excruciating pain in the back of his head. Another workman was summoned and together they removed him from the hot, unventilated room to the outside steps. A Dr. Nussbaum was called and gave Leber a superficial examination, suggesting that he go to the hospital for a thorough examination and diagnosis. Dr. Nussbaum made no diagnosis and never saw the deceased thereafter. The fellow workmen took Leber home and helped put him to bed. He continuously complained of pain in the back of his head, and his wife (appellee here) examined him and found a lump which was very sensitive to touch. On June 24, 1951 he was removed to a hospital, where he died on July 4 of a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
During the course of the hearing the widow was allowed, over objection, to testify concerning a certain statement which her husband made to her after he was brought home by the workmen. She testified that in response to her inquiry of her husband as to what had happened he answered, "I must have hit my head when I slipped from the ladder." Appellant asserts that this hearsay statement was admitted in error, and since it allegedly is the only evidence of a fall there is no competent
[ 179 Pa. Super. Page 25]
evidentiary basis for the finding of an accident, citing McMahon v. Budd Co., 108 Pa. Superior Ct. 235, 164 A. 850, where there was no evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, to support a finding of an accident except hearsay declarations made by the employe. Here, however, the compensation authorities and the court below believed that there was sufficient independent circumstantial evidence of the accident and hence this hearsay, not inconsistent therewith, was relevant and could be considered for whatever additional light it threw upon the matter under the doctrine of Nesbit v. Vandervort & Curry, 128 Pa. Superior Ct. 58, 193 A. 393, wherein it is stated at page 62: "While awards in workmen's compensation cases cannot rest wholly on hearsay evidence, ... the Workmen's Compensation Law, by its very nature, contemplates liberality in the admission of proofs and the inferences reasonably to be drawn therefrom ... and where the facts are sufficiently established by circumstantial evidence, hearsay testimony, not inconsistent therewith, if relevant and material to the fact in issue ... may be considered for the additional light, if any, that it throws on the matter."
Our primary concern then is whether there is independent competent evidence of an accident in the nature of a fall from the ladder. There were apparently no eyewitnesses, the evidence being solely circumstantial. Leber was found near the foot of the ladder, sitting against the wall in a daze. He had a lump on the back of his head. There was a strip of wallpaper which had been pasted on the wall near the ceiling, but which was still folded and unattached to the wall at the bottom. There were two tears in the paper. Several other pieces of ...