Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in case of Appeal of Stanley J. Trumpikas, dated February 2, 1979.
Frank J. Muraca, with him Joseph R. Solfanelli, of Dolphin, Solfanelli & Butler, for petitioner.
Robert E. Kelly, Deputy Attorney General, with him Norman J. Watkins, Deputy Attorney General, and Edward G. Biester, Jr., Attorney General, for respondent.
Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig. President Judge Bowman did not participate in the decision in this case.
[ 50 Pa. Commw. Page 131]
This is an appeal from an adjudication and order of the Hearing and Appeals Unit of the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) denying the claim of petitioner, as a DPW employee, under the Act of December 8, 1959, P.L. 1718, as amended (Act 534), 61 P.S. § 951, which provides, inter alia, that any employee of a state mental hospital "who is injured during the course of his employment by an act of any inmate or any person confined in such institution" shall be paid full salary throughout the "disability arising therefrom", together with medical and hospital expenses.
[ 50 Pa. Commw. Page 132]
The question presented is whether the employee claimant is entitled to benefits for a secondary injury claimed to be causally related to an initial injury which, all agree, was inflicted by a mental hospital patient.
We summarize the facts as found by the DPW hearing examiner, noting in parentheses additional evidence from the record brought to our attention by claimant's counsel.
Claimant, age 59, with 19 years of employment (and a good attendance record) as a psychiatric aide at Clarks Summit State Hospital, was attacked at work on the morning of July 1, 1977 by a patient who suddenly and without warning punched him in the face with both hands, causing claimant to fall backwards and land on his buttocks. Claimant got up off the floor (with help) after several attempts and assisted other aides in subduing the patient. Claimant (immediately feeling pain in the spine, the lower body and the back of his neck) visited Dr. DeLa Cruz, the doctor on duty, who treated him for a puffy lip (and prescribed Valium, which claimant declined because he was on other medication at the time). A registered nurse at the institution, who had observed the incident, completed a form noting that claimant complained of pain in his left knee area and swelling on the left side of his face, in the upper lip area. (Claimant's additional testimony was that he complained of a sore back and hip, and the nurse remembers his complaint of being shaken up and feeling "sore all over.")
Claimant's symptoms worsened as July 1 progressed; he had difficulty getting out of his car when he returned home. (Claimant was unable to eat dinner that evening, and his wife noted changes in skin color and swelling.)
On July 2 claimant had difficulty arising because of pain on the entire left side of his body from the neck down; ...