Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Charles J. Kosobucki v. Erie Coca-Cola Bottling Company, No. A-75767.
Stanley G. Berlin, of Plate, Doyle, Hutzelman and Berlin, for petitioner.
Michael A. Fetzner, of Knox, Graham, McLaughlin, Gornall and Sennett, Inc., for respondents.
Judges Crumlish, Jr., Rogers and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail. Judge DiSalle did not participate in the decision in this case.
[ 49 Pa. Commw. Page 328]
This is an appeal from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) which reversed the referee and denied Charles Kosobucki (Claimant) benefits. The Board held that in the absence of an obvious causal connection between Claimant's hernia injury and the incident which occurred in the course of his employment, unequivocal medical testimony was necessary before Claimant could prevail. The Board found that the Claimant's evidence failed to meet this standard and that the referee erred in finding that it did.
[ 49 Pa. Commw. Page 329]
Claimant is employed as an assistant bottler by the Erie Coca-Cola Bottling Company (Employer). Prior to November, 1975, he had been employed by another bottling company as a plant foreman. In the course of his former employment in the fall of 1974, Claimant fell into an excavation site and suffered a small right inguinal hernia, as diagnosed on April 21, 1975 by his physician Dr. Bajorek. At the time of diagnosis, Dr. Bajorek advised Claimant to have surgery if the discomfort continued and to be re-examined in the next three to six months.
Claimant continued working with slight and occasional discomfort, but did not have surgery and was not medically re-examined. In November of 1975, he commenced working for Employer. Sometime in March of 1976, on a date Claimant could not specify in his testimony, Claimant, while in the course of his employment, stepped down a steel ladder, misjudged the last step, and overstretched his stride. He experienced a sharp pain in the groin area such as he had not felt before. However, Claimant gave no immediate notice of an injury to Employer. He continued working until he saw his doctor on June 18, 1976 at which time a large right inguinal hernia was discovered. On that same date Claimant prepared an accident report for Employer, and on June 28, 1976, he entered the hospital for mandatory surgery. From June 25, 1976 through September 6, 1976, Claimant was totally disabled from performing the duties of his employment by reason of his surgery and recovery therefrom.
In his deposition, the Claimant's physician said he could not recall that Claimant told him what happened that occasioned Claimant's visit in June of 1976. The physician "just assumed" that Claimant's condition was related to his original injury. On the question of his medical opinion regarding the cause of Claimant's
[ 49 Pa. Commw. Page 330]
condition in June of 1976, the physician gave several responses:
Well, he originally sustained an injury back in the fall of '74 which could have been the cause of the enlargement when I saw him in June of 1976. A severe injury ...