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HILT v. ROSLYN VOLUNTEER FIRE COMPANY (10/12/71)

decided: October 12, 1971.

HILT, APPELLANT,
v.
ROSLYN VOLUNTEER FIRE COMPANY



Appeal from order of Superior Court, Oct. T., 1968, No. 320, affirming order of Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, No. 67-10730, in case of Edward W. Hilt v. Roslyn Volunteer Fire Co.

COUNSEL

Carl M. Mazzocone, with him Sheer, Mazzocone & Quinn, for appellant.

John F. McElvenny, with him Frederick W. Anton, III, for appellee.

Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Pomeroy. Mr. Justice Cohen took no part in the decision of this case. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Mr. Justice Roberts joins in this dissent. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts.

Author: Pomeroy

[ 445 Pa. Page 150]

This is an appeal from the denial of benefits by the Workmen's Compensation Board to claimant who

[ 445 Pa. Page 151]

    sought to recover for a heart attack suffered on March 16, 1964 while he was acting in his capacity as a volunteer fireman. The evidence established on behalf of the claimant showed that while he was driving a twenty year old, ten ton fire truck, it became necessary to engage the emergency brake to keep the truck from slipping backward during a turn about; that the emergency brake mechanism (a lever with a push button on top) would not release readily because in the exigency of the situation it had been pulled back too far; that claimant bent over into an awkward position and exerted an additional force to free the brake lever; that in so doing, claimant suffered immediate chest pain and was hospitalized within several hours as a result of an infarct; that claimant was totally disabled from the date of the occurrence on March 16, 1964 until July 9, 1964 when he returned to work on a limited basis in his regular employment as a carpenter; and that he remained on limited duty, thus suffering a reduction in earning capacity, until September 30, 1964 when he resumed full employment with no further loss in wages.

The workmen's compensation referee made a factual determination that claimant had suffered a myocardial infarction on the day of the incident; nevertheless, he denied benefits to claimant, concluding as a matter of law that there had been no accident within the meaning of the Workmen's Compensation Act.*fn1 The Workmen's Compensation Board affirmed the findings of fact, conclusions of law and the order of the referee dismissing the claimant's petition. In addition, the Board specifically found as a fact that the claimant's activities

[ 445 Pa. Page 152]

    on the date of the incident did not constitute a materially greater amount of exertion or risk than the claimant was normally required to perform in the course of his duties as a volunteer fireman, and thus his injuries were not the result of an "unusual exertion". The Board's decision was affirmed by the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, sitting en banc, and its order was in turn affirmed by the Superior Court.*fn2 We granted allocatur in order to consider the claim of appellants that the Board and the courts below erred in applying the "unusual strain" doctrine to the facts of this case in that they failed to apply the standard set forth in Hamilton v. Procon, 434 Pa. 90, 252 A.2d 601 (1969), a decision of this Court handed down after the commencement of the instant case, and subsequent to the date of the lower court's opinion.

In Hamilton, the opinion*fn3 reviewed the unusual strain doctrine as it has been applied in Pennsylvania, viz., that there can be no recovery unless the claimant proves that the death or injury resulted from an over-exertion or unusual strain encountered in the course of the employment, and concluded that the doctrine should not be abrogated by judicial opinion.*fn4 It found, however, that the Common Pleas Court had erred in ...


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