Appeal, No. 253, October T., 1953, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas No. 6 of Philadelphia County, Sept. T., 1952, No. 3015, in case of Joseph Schaefer v. Central News Company. Judgment reversed. Appeal by claimant from decision of Workmen's Compensation Board refusing award.
John F. Donohue, for appellant.
Sheldon Tabb, with him Edward Davis and LeRoy Comanor, for appellee.
Before Rhodes, P.j., Hirt, Ross, Gunther, Wright, Woodside, and Ervin, JJ.
[ 179 Pa. Super. Page 560]
The sole issue in this workmen's compensation case is whether the claimant, Joseph Schaefer, suffered an accident during the course of his employment.
On August 14, 1950, Schaefer, in the course of his usual employment, working in his usual manner, lifted two bundles of magazines, weighing about 150 pounds total, from his truck when he heard "something snap in (his) back". He was disabled thereafter for approximately 8 weeks. Since then he has returned to his regular employment, apparently cured. He filed a petition for compensation setting forth inter alia that "5. The nature and cause of the injury was dislocated disc." After hearing, the referee awarded compensation but the Board reversed the referee and set aside the award. The lower court in turn reversed the Board and reinstated the award made by the referee, and the employer has taken this appeal.
The Board's material findings of fact are as follows: "Second: We find, as a fact, from a preponderance of the testimony, that on August 14, 1950, claimant was performing his usual duties in a usual manner and that no unusual or fortuitous event took place other than the claimant felt something snap in his back. - Fourth: We further find as a fact, from a preponderance of the testimony, that claimant's disability is the result of the natural progress of a back condition from which he has been suffering since 1945 and was not the result of accident."
It is well settled that an accident cannot be inferred merely from disability overtaking an employe
[ 179 Pa. Super. Page 561]
in the performance of his usual duties. Adamchick v. Wyoming Valley Collieries Co., 332 Pa. 401, 3 A.2d 377. Simon v. Fine, 167 Pa. Superior Ct. 386, 74 A.2d 674. Shatto v. Burdinet Exports, Inc., 170 Pa. Superior Ct. 16, 84 A.2d 388. There must be clear proof of an accident. The testimony of claimant, that "something snapped" in his back is insufficient for this purpose. Rupchak v. Westinghouse Electric & Mfg. Co., 161 Pa. Superior Ct. 228, 54 A.2d 309. Here admittedly there is no evidence of an outward untoward event such as a slip, fall, loss of balance or the like. However, "a compensable injury may occur in the course of the normal duties of an employee and without overexertion, when a strain, sprain or twist causes a break or sudden change in the physical structure or tissues of the body - that is, a fracture of the bone or bony cartilage, or a rupture of the softer tissues." Gavula v. Sims Co., 155 Pa. Superior Ct. 206, 212, 38 A.2d 482. Cf. Owatt v. Rodman's Beverage, 169 Pa. Superior Ct. 339, 82 A.2d 255.
The record here consists largely of the testimony of the claimant and his medical witness. Defendant relied principally on impeaching and weakening this testimony by prior written statements of both claimant and his doctor. No medical testimony was offered by defendant. It appears that prior to the instant disability, the claimant had back trouble in 1945 and 1948. On all three occasions he was treated by the same doctor, his medical witness. It was the doctor's belief that the 1945 and 1948 conditions were "low back strains" due principally to an osteoarthritic condition as well as slight degenerative changes in the lumbar and sacroiliac regions. He believed however ...