Appeal from order of Commonwealth Court, No. 44 of 1970, affirming order of Court of Common Pleas, of Philadelphia, May T., 1970, No. 3774, in case of Clara Cody, widow of Carl Cody, Jr. v. S.K.F. Industries, Inc.
Roger B. Wood, with him Joseph R. Thompson, for appellants.
Stanley P. Stern, for appellee.
Jones, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Mr. Justice Roberts concurs in the result, believing that the statement given by the deceased declarant to the doctor was pathologically germane and thus admissible. Former Mr. Chief Justice Bell and former Mr. Justice Barbieri took no part in the consideration and decision of this case.
For ten years prior to his death, Carl Cody, Jr., was an employee of S.K.F. Industries, Inc. His widow, alleging his death was the result of a compensable accident suffered in the course of his employment, filed a timely claim for Workmen's Compensation on behalf of herself and their five children under the Act of June 2, 1915, P. L. 736, as amended, 77 P.S. § 1 et seq. Following an extended hearing, the referee entered an adjudication including findings of fact, conclusions of law and an award of compensation. Subsequently, the Workmen's Compensation Board affirmed the referee's adjudication and the award of compensation. Successive
appeals to the Court of Common Pleas and the Commonwealth Court by S.K.F. and its insurance carrier proved unsuccessful. We granted allocatur to determine if the record includes sufficient competent evidence to sustain a finding that the decedent's death was caused by a compensable accident suffered in the course of his employment. We rule it does, and now affirm the Commonwealth Court's unanimous order affirming the compensation award.
The testimony before the referee included the following:
Carl Cody's primary duty in his employment with S.K.F. was chauffeuring its executives. He enjoyed general good health and a consistently good work record. On March 10, 1966, he checked out of work two hours early complaining of being "sick" and was given transportation part-way home by a fellow employee and took a taxicab the remaining distance. Upon arriving home, Cody complained of a severe headache and informed his wife that at work, after driving a company automobile into the executive garage, he was struck on the head and knocked to the ground by an overhead garage door. He reported for work on March 11th and 12th, but the headache did not abate and on the evening of March 12th Cody was confined to bed suffering from chills and general pain. On March 13th, the family physician was consulted to whom Cody described how on March 10th he had been hit on the head by the overhead garage door. On March 15th Cody's condition worsened and the physician ordered him transferred to a hospital. At this time, Cody was found to be suffering from high temperatures, severe headaches, periods of delerium and tosis of the eyelids. Cody remained in the hospital until March 27th, but was re-admitted on March 31st, when he underwent surgery to alleviate an infection in the subdural region of the brain. He died on April 10th.
To establish the causal connection between the alleged head injury and the ultimate death, the claimant produced a Dr. Theodore Kushner, a specialist in neurology and psychiatry. Dr. Kushner testified that in his opinion trauma to the head caused a blood clot, or a subdural hematoma of the tissue, and this became infected and the subdural collection of blood through the infection turned into a collection of pus, or a subdural empyema, and this was the cause of death. The doctor stated that an injury to the head was the only thing which could have caused the subdural empyema since there was no brain abscess or infection in the paranasal sinus or in the middle ear. He totally discounted the theory that the infection was blood borne since the blood supply to the subdural space is quite limited and there was no evidence of an infection in the lungs, kidneys, spleen or liver, thus the infection had to be a local condition and a head injury was the only possible cause.
Claimant also called Dr. Morris Segal, a surgeon with a background in head injury treatment, who testified that in his opinion the deceased had sustained a subdural hematoma, that eventually the hematoma became infected, and turned into an empyema and this was the cause of death. He stated that a trauma to the head was the only way the subdural hematoma could have developed.
The records of the hospital which included a history of the decedent's alleged accident, were also received ...