Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Robert Battisti v. Duquesne Light Company, No. A-75010.
John A. Lee, for petitioner.
John McIlvaine, for respondent.
Judges Wilkinson, Jr., DiSalle and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge DiSalle.
[ 44 Pa. Commw. Page 351]
The Duquesne Light Company (Employer) appeals from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal
[ 44 Pa. Commw. Page 352]
Board (Board) which affirmed a referee's award of benefits to Robert Battisti (Claimant). The Employer argues that the referee's findings that Claimant was totally disabled from October 22, 1976, to December 17, 1976, due to a work-related injury incurred June 16, 1976, are not supported by substantial evidence.
It is undisputed that Claimant had a history of back problems which dated from the mid-1950's. On June 16, 1976, while employed as a mainline motorman in one of the Employer's mines, Claimant threw a rail switch and experienced pain in his lower back, a condition which he immediately reported to his foreman. Claimant nevertheless continued in his employment, with the aid of analgesics supplied by the Employer's doctor, until October 21, 1976. The next day, Claimant entered a hospital on the advice of his family physician.
On October 31, 1976, another physician, Dr. Bowers, while filling out a portion of a health insurance claim which Claimant was submitting to secure private disability benefits, noted that Claimant was totally disabled from October 22, 1976, to date (October 31) and that he was suffering from a "chronic condition." Subsequently, on December 16, 1976, Dr. Bowers re-examined Claimant and adjudged him able to return to work provided he avoid heavy lifting and other activities which might excessively strain his lower back. Claimant returned to work on December 17, 1976. On January 7, 1977, Dr. Bowers filed a report as to Claimant's hospitalization wherein he observed that the "onset of his pain for which he was being evaluated is June 16, 1976, and was precipitated by a work-related injury which he stated was throwing a switch at work."
The Employer initially argues that the referee's finding of total disability is not supported by substantial
[ 44 Pa. Commw. Page 353]
evidence. Examining Dr. Bowers' testimony in its totality, as culled from the several reports admitted into evidence before the referee, we are satisfied that he was of the opinion that Claimant was totally disabled from October 22, 1976, to December 16, 1976. As noted previously, Dr. Bowers stated on January 7, 1977, that Claimant's total disability was precipitated by a work-related injury which occurred June 16, 1976. When viewed in conjunction with Claimant's own testimony, we have no difficulty in concluding that ...