Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Willie Jeeter v. Riley Stoker Corporation, A-65989.
Richard H. Scobell, for appellants.
Ted Grant Miller, with him Howard N. Plate and Plate, Doyle, Kroto & Hutzelman, for appellee.
Judges Kramer, Mencer and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
Willie Jeeter (claimant) was employed by the Riley Stoker Corporation (employer). He suffered an injury while at work on May 7, 1971 and allegedly had two
periods of disability thereafter during which he missed work and incurred certain medical expenses. On October 27, 1971, he filed a Claim Petition pursuant to The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act, Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, 77 P.S. § 1 et seq., and, after a hearing, a referee awarded him compensation for the first period of disability but not for the second. The mailing date of this award notification was April 18, 1972, and, on April 29, 1972, the claimant sent a letter to the referee asking for "a reconsideration or an appeal." It was not until August 3, 1972, however, that an appeal was actually filed with the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board). The employer sought to quash the appeal as being untimely, but the Board issued an order on November 15, 1972 remanding the case to the referee "to give the claimant one more opportunity to present evidence in support of his claim and to allow rebuttal by the defendant." The employer appealed the Board's remand order to this Court and the claimant has filed a motion to quash the appeal.
We shall deal initially with the timeliness of the claimant's appeal to the Board from the referee's award. Section 423 of the Workmen's Compensation Act, 77 P.S. § 853, provides that a party in interest must appeal an order of a referee "within twenty days after notice of a referee's award or disallowance of compensation shall have been served upon him. . . ." Because the referee's award is deemed to have been served on the claimant on the date when mailed,*fn1 and the claimant here has not alleged that he failed to receive it or that there was any delay in its receipt, he had twenty days from April 18, 1972, to file his appeal. His filing of an appeal on August 3, 1972, therefore,
was clearly untimely, being more than three months after the referee's award was served on him.
The courts of this Commonwealth have been very strict in applying the appeal period of Section 423 and have permitted appeals nunc pro tunc only where there is a showing of fraud, or its equivalent. "Where an Act of Assembly fixes the time within which an appeal may be taken, courts have no power to extend it, or to allow an appeal nunc pro tunc, except when there is a showing of fraud or its equivalent. Something more than mere hardship is necessary to justify an extension of time. . . . The time of appeal cannot be enlarged in the absence of fraud, deception, coercion, or duress." Yeager v. United Natural Gas Company, 197 Pa. Superior Ct. 25, 28, 176 A.2d 455, 456 (1961). See Wise v. Cambridge Springs Borough, 262 Pa. 139, 104 A. 863 (1918); Tankin, Inc. v. Williams, 2 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 361, 277 A.2d 835 (1971); Powell v. Sonntag, 159 Pa. Superior Ct. 354, 48 A.2d 62 (1946). No such showing has been made here. The claimant's April 29, 1972 letter to the referee cannot be construed as having been a timely appeal for the notice served on the claimant along with the referee's award clearly stated that any appeal would have to be taken to the Board within 20 days of April 18, 1972. While we recognize that the claimant was then unrepresented by counsel, this at most establishes merely a situation of hardship, not one where he has been subjected to any fraud or the equivalent, which would justify granting an appeal nunc pro tunc. Cf. Morgan v. Pittsburgh Business Properties, Inc., 198 Pa. Superior Ct. 254, 181 A.2d 881 (1962).
The claimant urges that he was in fact asking for a rehearing, and that he could do this even after the appeal period had expired. We do not agree. The right of the Board to grant a rehearing before a referee is ...