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June 1, 1964


Appeal, No. 223, March T., 1963, from order of Superior Court, April T., 1963, no. 22, affirming order of Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County, June T., 1962, No. 135, in case of Richard C. Symons, Jr. v. National Electric Products, Inc. Order affirmed.


Myron E. Rowley, with him Ralph E. Smith, James E. Rowley, and Rowley, Smith & Rowley, for appellant.

Clem R. Kyle, for appellee.

Before Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'brien and Roberts, JJ.

Author: Roberts

[ 414 Pa. Page 507]


This is an appeal by a claimant from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Board suspending compensation. The order was affirmed by the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County and per curiam by the Superior Court on the opinion of the court below.

The essential facts are not in dispute. On August 21, 1952, Richard C. Symons, Jr., was at work in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, as a molding machine operator when he met with an accident. He suffered a crushing type injury which immediately caused a compound fracture of both legs. This compelled the amputation of both legs at points above each knee. Claimant was twenty-nine years of age at the time.

Prior to the accident, claimant had been earning an average wage of $76.61 per week. Section 306(a) of the Workmen's Compensation Act of 1915, June 2, P.L. 736, as amended to the date of the accident, 77 P.S. § 511,*fn1 granted (in the then effective schedule)

[ 414 Pa. Page 508]

    compensation for total disability at a maximum of $30 per week, but not to exceed two-thirds of claimant's prior wage, payable for a maximum period of 700 weeks (after a waiting period of seven days following the accident).

Accordingly, after the accident, the parties entered into a workmen's compensation agreement, providing for payment of compensation at$30 per week. This amount was paid for 430 weeks from August 28, 1952 (one week after the accident), until November 23, 1960. However, during this time, claimant participated in a remarkable rehabilitation program which was a cooperative undertaking by claimant and the workmen's compensation carrier for the employer.

After preliminary discussion with claimant to determine his suitability as a candidate for industrial rehabilitation from the viewpoint of interest and mental attitude, defendant's carrier brought claimant to its rehabilitation center in Boston in November of 1952. Rehabilitation efforts there included both psychological preparation and extensive physical treatment, training and guidance by orthopedists, physical therapists and occupational therapists to assist claimant in compensating for his devastating physical handicap. Claimant was initially given boots in each of which was incorporated an articulating or movable foot to increase their utility. He was trained in the use of these initial prosthetic devices during his first stay at the center, which lasted until February, 1953, and "he became extremely agile" and "self-sufficient in the use of these boots." He returned to the rehabilitation clinic in September, 1953, and obtained new prostheses in the form of full-length artificial legs.*fn2

[ 414 Pa. Page 509]

Claimant succeeded in adapting himself to his severe handicap and resumed employment with defendant on January 28, 1954. He was given a job as inspector in defendant's wire and cable division, the duties of the job being: "Under supervision to inspect wire and cable in various stages of process; to interpret specification charts and detailed drawings; to inspect material and processes on the following equipment: tube insulators, stranders, bunchers, and similar types of equipment; to check the following when applicable against physical specification requirements: diameter of copper, number of strands, diameter overall; thickness of insulation; length and direction of lay, copper and conductor or tape."*fn3

Defendant's personnel manager testified that this work required "limited physical effort," but "continuous visual attention and mental alertness." The "fatigue factor" was not great, since the work involved "light handling, not continuous." However, this was not an artificially created job, intended simply to give claimant some form of work. To the contrary, this very job classification was in existence prior to the time he handled it and was performed by other employees. The same witness testified that claimant performs his work "without any undue or unreasonable assistance," he does not receive any more assistance than any other inspector, and claimant has "a very good work record. ... His record indicates in all factors of quality, quantity, etc., he has been conscientious and has done a good job." Claimant's job is not temporary, but is likely to continue. He works a regular weekly period of five days at eight hours per day. He drives his own automobile to work, places it in a parking

[ 414 Pa. Page 510]

    space at the plant, and from that parking area walks to his job without assistance.

Although at the time of the accident claimant was earning a wage of $1.54 per hour, as of the date of the hearing before the referee (October 18, 1961), the wage for his former job was $1.98 per hour. However, the job as inspector, which claimant is successfully able to perform and at which he earns his wages, pays considerably more. From his initial rate on January 28, 1954, of $1.82 per hour, he received five increases, the last four all reaching amounts higher than even the increased molding machine operator's rate in force at the time of the hearing. For four years paior to the hearing (since September, 1957), claimant had been earning wages at the rate of $2.275 per hour, or $.735 per hour higher than his wage at the time of the accident.*fn4

Defendant continued to pay workmen's compensation to claimant under the original agreement at the maximum rate of $30 per week in accordance with the Act, even after claimant returned to work in 1954. These payments were continued until November 23, 1960, which was the date of expiration of the 430 week period.

Under Section 306(c) of the Act (77 P.S. § 513), the loss of one leg entitles a claimant to 215 weeks of compensation.*fn5 Hence, defendant reasoned that the loss of two legs would entitle the claimant here to payment for twice that period, or 430 weeks, which was in fact paid. Claimant received total ...

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