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JAMES O. SACKS AND HARLEYSVILLE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (06/06/79)

decided: June 6, 1979.

JAMES O. SACKS AND HARLEYSVILLE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, PETITIONERS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD AND WILLIAM H. SACKS, RESPONDENTS



Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of William H. Sacks v. James O. Sacks, No. A-73909.

COUNSEL

Paul A. Lockrey, for petitioners.

Emory W. Buck, with him William R. Cooper, Stewart J. Greenleaf, and Cooper & Greenleaf, for respondents.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Wilkinson, Jr. and Mencer, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Mencer.

Author: Mencer

[ 43 Pa. Commw. Page 260]

James O. Sacks (employer) and his workmen's compensation insurance carrier have appealed from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) awarding benefits to William H. Sacks (claimant). We affirm.

Claimant was employed as a school bus driver, and he was responsible for transporting handicapped children. On April 2, 1973, he stopped to pick up a 17-year-old boy in a wheelchair. Claimant grasped the boy, who weighed 142 pounds, under the arms, lifted him out of the wheelchair, stood up, pivoted to his right, and set the boy down in a seat of the bus. Claimant then felt severe pain in his right knee and foot. With some difficulty, claimant drove the bus to its destination and reported the incident to his employer, indicating he would not be able to continue working because of the pain.

The pain persisted for several weeks, and it was eventually determined that claimant suffered from Sudeck's atrophy in his foot and a torn tendon in his knee. After treatment, claimant was eventually able to return to work without any loss of earnings on August 27, 1974.

At a hearing on his claim for compensation, claimant testified concerning the April 2, 1973 incident. He

[ 43 Pa. Commw. Page 261]

    also presented the testimony of two physicians, but neither physician expressed any opinion on the relationship, if any, between claimant's disability and the incident of April 2. However, one physician did state that Sudeck's atrophy was typically caused by minor trauma. Relying upon this testimony, a referee awarded benefits, the Board affirmed, and this appeal followed.

The issue in this case is whether or not claimant's failure to produce unequivocal medical testimony to establish a causal relationship between the incident on April 2, 1973 and his disability precludes an award of compensation. The general and well-established rule is that such testimony is an essential element of the claimant's case. See, e.g., Westmoreland Casualty Co. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 36 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 307, 387 A.2d 683 (1978); Columbus Service International v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 17 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 441, 333 A.2d 233 (1975); cf. Hamil v. Bashline, 481 Pa. 256, 267-8, 392 A.2d 1280, 1285-86 (1978) (unequivocal medical testimony usually necessary to establish cause of pain and injury in negligence action). Where, however, a claimant's disability is immediately and directly the result of a work incident, the factfinder is not required to depend upon medical testimony to find the causal connection. See, e.g., Yellow Cab Co. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 37 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 337, 390 A.2d 880 (1978); Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board v. Bethlehem Mines Corp., 22 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 437, 349 A.2d 529 (1975).

We believe that the recent Supreme Court decision in Morgan v. Giant Markets, Inc., 483 Pa. 421, 397 A.2d 415 (1979), requires us to hold that this case comes within the ...


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