Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Helen Jante v. Olivetti Corporation of America, No. A-69574.
James F. Carl, with him Metzger, Wickersham, Knauss & Erb, for appellant.
Richard A. Jameson, with him Jameson, Connelly, Martsolf & Guida, and James N. Diefenderfer, for appellees.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr. and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Crumlish, Jr. Judge Kramer did not participate in the decision in this case.
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The Olivetti Corporation of America (Olivetti) has appealed a decision and order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) which affirmed the referee's decision granting benefits to Helen Jante (Claimant). Finding no error in the proceedings below, we must affirm.
Claimant was employed by Olivetti as a typewriter inspector. On June 27, 1970, while in the course of her employment, Claimant suffered an accidental injury when she picked up a defective typewriter from the assembly line and placed it on the floor. Having received prompt notification of the injury, Olivetti's plant nurse assisted Claimant in filling out the forms for benefits and assured her that her claim would be duly processed.
[ 26 Pa. Commw. Page 466]
In September, 1970, Claimant began receiving monthly payments from Olivetti's non-occupational sickness and accident insurance carrier (Aetna Life and Casualty Co.) for what she assumed were workmen's compensation benefits. These payments continued until December 17, 1973. In fact, unknown to Claimant, Olivetti's workmen's compensation carrier (Travelers Insurance Co.) had rejected the compensation claim in August, 1970. On January 7, 1974, Claimant filed a document entitled Petition to Review Provisions of Existing Compensation Agreement, but later amended it to become a compensation claim petition.
The referee found as a fact that Claimant's accidental injury was due to "the unusual strenuous exertion of her duties on that particular day." The referee found that Claimant suffers a 50% functional disability as a result of her accidental injury and is therefore totally disabled. As to the timing of Claimant's claim petition, the referee found that Claimant had been lulled into a false sense of security when Olivetti's nurse provided forms for Claimant and helped her to complete them. This being so, the referee held that the statute of limitations did not bar the claim petition and awarded benefits for total disability.
Since the alleged accident occurred prior to the 1972 Amendments to The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act*fn1 (Act), Claimant was required to relate her disability to an "accident" within the scope of her employment in accordance with Section 301(c) of the Act, 77 P.S. § 411. The judicial definition of the term "accident" as used in the Act includes a concept known as the "unusual strain" doctrine. Under this doctrine, a claimant has suffered a compensable "accident" when he or she suffers an "unusual exertion
[ 26 Pa. Commw. Page 467]
in the course of work causing an unexpected and sudden injury." Puher v. United States Steel Corp., 18 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 278, 335 A.2d 854 (1975); Hinkle v. H.J. Heinz Co., 7 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 216, 298 A.2d 632 (1972). To prove a compensable accident under this definition, a claimant must establish that the injury was the result of unusual physical effort exerted to meet an unusual situation and that, considering the individual work history of the employe, the effort was not normally connected with his or her work. Puher v. United States Steel Corp., supra. The injury must be related to a claimant's performance of work of a different nature requiring greater ...