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JONES & LAUGHLIN STEEL CORPORATION v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (06/22/79)

decided: June 22, 1979.

JONES & LAUGHLIN STEEL CORPORATION, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD AND ANDREW SOTAK, RESPONDENTS



Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Andrew Sotak v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation, No. A-73338.

COUNSEL

Raymond F. Keisling, with him Will & Keisling, for petitioner.

Mark T. Wade, with him William T. Allison, Jr., and Patrono, Ceisler, Edwards & Pettit, for respondents.

Judges Crumlish, Jr., Mencer and Rogers, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.

Author: Rogers

[ 43 Pa. Commw. Page 496]

Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation has appealed from a Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board order affirming a referee's decision setting aside a final receipt executed by Andrew Sotak, and reinstating disability payments to Sotak under a supplemental compensation agreement.

Sotak suffered an accident in the course of his employment with Jones & Laughlin on December 8, 1974 when the locomotive he was operating hit a bump,

[ 43 Pa. Commw. Page 497]

    throwing Sotak backwards and causing him to strike his head on pipes and switch boxes located in the cab. At various times during the year following Sotak's accident, the parties entered into three separate compensation agreements after each of which Sotak signed a final receipt. On January 29, 1976, Sotak filed a claim petition with the Bureau of Occupational Injury and Disease Compensation. Fifteen days later, he signed a final receipt stating that he had received a total of $772.27 in compensation benefits covering a total of seven weeks and two days for various periods of temporary total disability and that he had returned to work on June 26, 1975 without loss of earning power. Sotak thereafter amended his claim petition filed January 29, 1976 so as to request that the final receipt be set aside. After hearing, the referee, as we have noted, set the receipt aside and reinstated compensation. The Board affirmed and this appeal followed.

In an action to set aside a final receipt under Section 434 of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act, Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, 77 P.S. ยง 1001, the claimant has the burden of conclusively proving that all disability attributable to the prior accident has not, in fact, terminated. Where the party with the burden of proof has prevailed before the referee, as Sotak did here, and where the Board has not taken additional evidence, our review is limited to a determination of whether or not constitutional rights were violated, an error of law was committed, or any necessary findings of fact made by the referee were unsupported by substantial evidence. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board v. Universal Cyclops Specialty Steel Division of Cyclops Corp., 20 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 261, 341 A.2d 223 (1975).

Jones & Laughlin contends that Sotak's medical evidence was not unequivocal and did not therefore establish the necessary causal connection between his

[ 43 Pa. Commw. Page 498]

December 8, 1974 accident and his condition of total disability. We do not agree. In the report submitted by Dr. Bertrand L. Stolzer, Sotak's treating physician, he states: "Certainly the injury which he sustained has aggravated the muscular discomfort. We feel that he does have a fibromyositis which is related to trauma, plus psychophysiologic factors and also his underlying degenerative joint disease." This evidence sufficiently supports the referee's findings. It is true that the record also contains medical evidence which is favorable to Jones & Laughlin. But it is for the referee ...


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