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GRANT BUILDERS v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (02/16/78)

decided: February 16, 1978.

GRANT BUILDERS, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD AND WILLIAM DAVID BURGE, RESPONDENTS



Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of William David Burge v. Grant Builders, No. A-71519.

COUNSEL

James R. Miller, with him Noble R. Zuschlag, and Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote, for petitioner.

J. Frank McKenna, III, with him William Rodgers, Jr., and Thorp, Reed & Armstrong, and James N. Diefenderfer, for respondents.

Judges Crumlish, Jr., and Blatt, sitting as a panel of two. Opinion by Judge Blatt.

Author: Blatt

[ 33 Pa. Commw. Page 592]

Grant Builders (Grant) appeals to us from a decision of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) affirming a referee's award of benefits to William David Burge (Burge).

[ 33 Pa. Commw. Page 593]

Burge sustained disabling injuries when he fell from the roof of a home on which he was installing shingles, and he filed a claim for workmen's compensation benefits. His claim stated that he was an employee of Grant at the time of the accident and, after a hearing, the referee determined that he was an employee for purposes of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act*fn1 (Act) and that he was therefore entitled to benefits. On appeal, the Board affirmed the referee's decision, and Grant now appeals to this Court.

The sole issue before us involves the question of whether or not an employer-employee relationship existed between Grant and Burge so as to render him eligible for benefits pursuant to Sections 103-104 of the Act, 77 P.S. §§ 21-22, and we have held previously where the facts are undisputed, this question is one of law. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board v. American Mutual Liability Insurance Co., 19 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 502, 339 A.2d 183 (1975).

Grant argues first that the referee's findings are not supported by substantial evidence, and second that the evidence establishes as a matter of law that Burge was an independent contractor rather than Grant's employee. Our scope of review, of course, is that defined in Section 44 of the Administrative Agency Law,*fn2 71 P.S. § 1710.44, which limits this Court to a determination of whether or not an error of law was committed, constitutional rights were violated, or whether or not findings of fact are unsupported by substantial evidence.

Clearly, a claimant must sustain the burden of proving the existence of an employment relationship

[ 33 Pa. Commw. Page 594]

    if he is to qualify for compensation. Barr v. B & B Camper Sales, 7 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 323, 300 A.2d 304 (1973). And the guidelines for determining whether or not a claimant was functioning as an employee at the time of the accident are the same as those at common law for ascertaining whether or not a master-servant relationship existed. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board v. American Mutual Liability Insurance Co., supra. Each case must be ...


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