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decided: March 14, 1978.


Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Ruth Landis, widow of John Landis, v. Fowler & Williams, No. A-71705.


Thomas B. Rutter, with him Lawrence M. Silverman, for petitioner.

Lawrence L. Robinson, with him Joseph R. Thompson, and James N. Diefenderfer, for respondents.

Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Rogers and DiSalle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.

Author: Rogers

[ 35 Pa. Commw. Page 123]

Ruth Landis, the appellant in this workmen's compensation case, filed a Fatal Claim Petition seeking

[ 35 Pa. Commw. Page 124]

    compensation and other benefits of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act, Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, 77 P.S. § 1 et seq., to which she believed she was entitled by reason of the illness and death of her husband, John Landis. Mr. Landis died on November 24, 1972, the result, the appellant contends, of an accident sustained in late November 1971. As the date just recorded shows, Mrs. Landis was required to prove that her husband's death was caused by an accident. An accident occurred, she says, when Mr. Landis was subjected to unusual strain of a nature, and was required to overexert himself in a fashion, not normal to his employment. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board v. Olivetti Corp., 26 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 464, 364 A.2d 735 (1976).

Mr. Landis was an over-the-road truck driver employed by the appellee, Fowler and Williams, in the haulage of freight between Philadelphia and other points, including Scranton.

At referees' hearings Mrs. Landis testified that her husband was a large, strong man in good health on November 24, 1971, the day before Thanksgiving. He left home on that day at about 6:00 o'clock P.M. to drive his truck to Scranton, deliver goods and return. It was expected that he would return at about 4:00 o'clock A.M. on November 25, 1971, Thanksgiving morning, to spend the holiday at home. Mr. Landis did not come home on November 25, 1971; he did not come home until 3:00 o'clock P.M. on Friday, November 26, 1971, thirty six hours later than expected. When he arrived home Mr. Landis was coughing, sneezing, short of breath and suffering chills. On Sunday, November 28, 1971, Mr. Landis was admitted to Nazareth Hospital suffering from acute pulmonary edema and the symptoms of aortic stenosis and rheumatic heart disease. From November 26, 1971 until his death on November 20, 1972, Mr. Landis was a

[ 35 Pa. Commw. Page 125]

    sick man. He was hospitalized at least five times and once underwent heart surgery. This testimony was of course admissible.

Mrs. Landis was also permitted to testify, over objection, that her husband called her by telephone during his absence from home from November 24, 1971 and until November 26, 1971 and that he talked with her when he came home. He reported that his truck had been plowed under the snow and immobilized on a hill in the Pocono mountains; that he was required several times to walk to a location down the hill to reach a telephone; that he had tried to disengage his truck by laying chains at the wheels; and that he had slept in the truck. She testified that her husband told her that he suffered shortness of breath during his trips on the hill.

One of Mr. Landis's treating physicians testified that Mr. Landis had pre-existing conditions of rheumatic heart disease and aortic stenosis which were aggravated by the exertion and activities on the hill in the Poconos and that that incident was a precipitating cause of Mr. Landis's death from congestive heart failure.

Medical records were admitted into evidence; one is a letter from a consulting physician dated December 30, 1971, addressed to a treating physician which states that Mr. Landis, on his examination, had chronic rheumatic valvular heart disease and had developed acute pulmonary edema, "precipitated by upper respiratory illness having been involved in a snowstorm up in the Poconos." The records of the Nazareth Hospital to which Mr. Landis was admitted on November 28, 1971 and from which he was discharged on December 11, 1971 states the following:

The patient is a 50 years old male who developed shortness of breath for a couple of days. The patient was brought to this accident ward

[ 35 Pa. Commw. Page 126]

    in a state of consciousness, was coughing with evidence of acute pulmonary edema. The patient is stating that he was stuck in a snow storm and had to walk several miles up hill and he noticed some extreme dyspnea with cough and extreme shortness of breath. The ...

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