Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County, in case of Mike Iwaskewycz v. United State Steel Corporation, No. 430 of 1970.
James D. Strader, for appellant.
John F. Will, Jr., for appellee.
Judges Kramer, Rogers and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
This appeal involves a claim made by Michael Iwaskewycz (claimant) pursuant to the Workmen's Compensation Act, Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, 77 P.S. § 1, et seq., for injuries allegedly suffered while employed by the United States Steel Corporation (employer).
The injury in question occurred on June 29, 1965, when the claimant was allegedly struck on his head by a reamer during the course of his employment. He executed a Workmen's Compensation claim petition on September 21, 1966, but the petition was not filed with the Department of Labor and Industry until November 7, 1966, sixteen months and nine days after the date of the alleged injury, during which time the claimant contends that he was told by the employer's safetyman "not to worry" and that he would be "taken care of." The matter was heard by a Referee, who dismissed the petition because it had not been filed within the sixteen-month limit of the Statute of Limitations established by § 315 of the Workmen's Compensation
Act, as amended, 77 P.S. § 602.*fn1 On appeal, however, the Workmen's Compensation Board (Board) held that the employer was estopped from asserting the Statute of Limitations because the employer's representative had lulled the claimant into a false sense of security. The Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County affirmed this decision.
The law pertaining to the time within which a claim petition must be filed has been stated in Thorn v. Strawbridge & Clothier, 191 Pa. Superior Ct. 59, 61-62, 155 A.2d 414, 416 (1959), as follows:
"The legislature made the filing of the claim petition within the specified time an express condition of the right to obtain an award of compensation, and intended that the failure so to do should operate as an absolute bar of the right. Ratto v. Pennsylvania Coal Co., 102 Pa. Superior Ct. 242, 247, 156 A. 749 (1931); Lewis v. Carnegie-Ill. Steel Corp., 159 Pa. Superior Ct. 226, 229, 48 A.2d 120 (1946).
"The courts may not extend the period ex gratia in aid of a meritorious claim or to relieve against the hardship of particular circumstances. Lewis v. Carnegie-Ill. Steel Corp., supra; Mackanitz v. Pittsburgh & West Va. Rwy. Co., 157 Pa. Superior Ct. 359, 364, 43 A.2d 586 (1945).
"However, the courts can permit a claim to be filed after the time prescribed in the statute if fraud or its equivalent is shown, which in this connection includes an unintentional deception. The evidence to support such a claim must be clear and precise, ...