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HAGNER v. ALAN WOOD STEEL COMPANY (09/15/67)

decided: September 15, 1967.

HAGNER, APPELLANT,
v.
ALAN WOOD STEEL COMPANY, APPELLANT



Appeals from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, No. 66-5435, in case of Sarah M. Hagner v. Alan Wood Steel Company.

COUNSEL

Bernard J. McLafferty, with him Huganir, Butera and Detwiler, for claimant.

Lowell A. Reed, Jr., with him Rawle & Henderson, for employer.

Ervin, P. J., Wright, Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, Hoffman, and Spaulding, JJ. Opinion by Watkins, J.

Author: Watkins

[ 210 Pa. Super. Page 475]

These are cross-appeals in a workmen's compensation case. The defendant-appellant, Alan Wood Steel Company, appeals from the judgment of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County entered on a compensation award by the Workmen's Compensation Board in favor of Sarah M. Hagner, the claimant-appellee; and the claimant-appellant appeals from the amount of the judgment entered in her favor as affected by the court's computation of interest on the amount due.

The claimant, Sarah M. Hagner, is the widow of Harry L. Hagner, deceased, who was accidentally injured in the course of his employment as a steel worker on October 24, 1960. He was 67 years of age. His injuries consisted of a comminuted fracture of the first right metacarpal, a fracture of the right styloid process and tearing of the flexor muscle of the left thumb resulting from the jamming of his hand between two moving pieces of machinery. He was immediately hospitalized for surgery and left the hospital on October 29, 1960 but continued to be treated as an out-patient until December 19, 1960.

He never returned to work after the accident and his family doctor, John C. Maerz, found that he had a cardiac vascular problem on November 22, 1960. On December 20, 1960 he was admitted to the hospital and died on January 7, 1961. The cause of death was given as hypertensive arteriosclerotic heart disease. The decedent was paid compensation until December 11, 1960 under an open agreement.

The referee found that his death was substantially hastened and accelerated by the accident of October 24, 1960 and awarded benefits; on appeal, the board affirmed the referee's findings and conclusions of law as to causal relationship but remanded the case to the referee for further proceedings on matters not involved

[ 210 Pa. Super. Page 476]

    in this appeal. The referee again found causation and awarded benefits; the board affirmed; and the Court of Common Pleas on appeal affirmed the board. This appeal followed.

The question involved is whether there is legally competent evidence to support the findings of the compensation authorities that there was a causal connection between the accident and his death. If there is such evidence it is binding on the reviewing court. Leftwrich v. Colonial Alum. Sm. Corp., 184 Pa. Superior Ct. 622, 136 A.2d 182 (1957), and as the order favored the claimant, she is entitled to have the evidence viewed in the light most favorable to her and must be given the benefit of all inferences reasonably deducible therefrom. Butler v. U. S. Steel Corp., 205 Pa. Superior Ct. 508, 211 A.2d 35 (1965).

Where there is no obvious causal relationship between the employee's injury and the alleged accident unequivocal medical testimony is necessary to establish the causal connection. Lingle v. Lingle Coal Co., 203 Pa. Superior Ct. 464, 201 A.2d 279 (1964). The question, therefore, is whether there is unequivocal medical testimony that the trauma and shock of the injury caused the heart condition resulting in his death or so aggravated it as to hasten his death. Dr. Maerz testified that he had discovered the decedent's heart problem in June of 1957. He testified: "A. Yes. I saw him at home with the complaint of dizziness and weakness, and I noticed he had high blood pressure, 220/110, and he had the signs, at that time, of a mild weakness on the left, which we call a stroke. And I put him in, and he completely cleared, almost without any medication, just on rest. So, in medicine, the only thing we can ...


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