Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Rosemary Canterna v. United States Steel Corporation, No. A-66686.
James C. Evans, for appellant.
Richard F. Lerach, for appellee.
Judges Crumlish, Jr., Mencer and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
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On March 16, 1970 Rosemary Canterna (claimant) was employed as a nurse in an Ellwood City plant hospital
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of the United States Steel Corporation (employer) and allegedly suffered an accident while aiding a patient. This accident resulted, she claims, in a rupture to her cervical disc. She continued to work until April 6, 1970, but thereafter she entered a hospital, eventually undergoing surgery. On May 26, 1971, she filed a claim petition seeking workmen's compensation, alleging that she was disabled as a result of the accident, but the claim was rejected by a referee, after a hearing, on the basis that she had not reported the accident to the employer within the 120 day period required by Section 311 of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act, Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, 77 P.S. § 631. The referee's action was affirmed by the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) on review and is now appealed to this Court.
On appeals to this Court in workmen's compensation cases where the decision of the fact finder was adverse to the party bearing the burden of proof, our scope of review is limited to a determination of whether or not constitutional rights were violated, an error of law was committed, or there has been a capricious disregard of competent evidence. Cf. Jessop Steel Company v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board and Okey Miller, 10 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 186, 309 A.2d 86 (1973). And where, as here, the Board has taken no additional evidence, we must rely on the facts as found by the referee if he has not capriciously disregarded competent evidence in arriving at such facts. It is the province of the referee to consider the credibility of the witnesses. Universal Cyclops Steel Corporation v. Krawczynski, 9 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 176, 305 A.2d 757 (1973).
At the time here in question, Section 311 of the Workmen's Compensation Act, 77 P.S. § 631, provided: "Unless the employe or someone in his behalf, or some of the dependents or someone in their behalf, shall give notice thereof to the employer within twenty-one days
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after the accident, no compensation shall be due until such notice be given, and, unless such notice be given within one hundred and twenty days after the occurrence of the accident, no compensation shall be allowed." The purpose for requiring such notice is, of course, to protect the employer from stale claims for accidental injuries, of which he would have no knowledge, made after the opportunity had passed for a full and complete examination thereof. Allen v. Patterson-Emerson-Comstock, Inc., 180 Pa. Superior Ct. 286, 119 A.2d 832 (1956). Although courts should not read into this section a stricter requirement than the language itself imports,*fn1 the time limit prescribed is mandatory and, unless there is fraud or its equivalent present or some other act on the part of the employer which prejudices the claimant, the courts have no authority to extend the time for giving the notice.*fn2
The claimant here testified that she told another nurse about the accident at the time it occurred and that she informed her supervisor of it in June of 1970, some three months later. The other nurse, however, was deceased at the time of the referee's hearing, and the supervisor testified at that time that he was never informed by the claimant of the accident until September of 1970, about six months after its occurrence. Other witnesses indicated that they knew the ...