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WESTINGHOUSE ELECTRIC CORPORATION v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (04/25/80)

decided: April 25, 1980.

WESTINGHOUSE ELECTRIC CORPORATION, APPELLANT,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD AND MARGARET L. POLLARD, WIDOW OF WALTER H. POLLARD, DECEASED, APPELLEES



No. 90 March Term, 1979, Appeal From The Order Of The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania At No. 1469 C.D. 1978 Affirming The Order Of The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board At Docket No. A-73858, Affirming The Order Of Referee Darkins, District No. 8, Fatal Claim Petition 011-26-4323.

COUNSEL

William Alvah Stewart, III, Mark A. Willard, Eckert, Seamans, Cherin & Mellott, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Samuel J. Goldstein, Pittsburgh, for Margaret L. Pollard.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ.

Author: Larsen

[ 489 Pa. Page 486]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is a workmen's compensation case wherein the Westinghouse Electric Corporation (appellant) appeals from an order of the Commonwealth Court affirming an award by the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (The Board) to Margaret L. Pollard, appellee.

Appellee's husband, the decedent Walter H. Pollard, III, was employed by appellant as an internal consultant. On October 7, 1974, the decedent joined his superior for a five-day assignment at appellant's facility located in Hampton, South Carolina. After a brief tour of this facility, decedent and his superior were invited by a Westinghouse division manager to stay at the appellant's lodge, a ranch-type house used to provide overnight accommodations for its employees and customers. Arriving at the lodge at approximately 6:30 p. m., decedent requested a scotch whiskey. Shortly thereafter, decedent and several others who were present at the lodge departed for dinner at a Holiday Inn where one round of drinks was ordered. The evening was largely social in nature and the party returned to the lodge at approximately 9:00 p. m. The decedent then went to the lodge game room to continue drinking and socializing. By approximately 9:45 p. m. decedent's speech became noticeably slurred and incoherent; he stumbled and fell when attempting to rise from his seat. Believing that decedent was intoxicated, two of his co-workers assisted decedent to

[ 489 Pa. Page 487]

    his room, placed him in bed without removing his clothing, and left him there for the night. The next morning, decedent was found dead, lying fully-clothed on the floor near to his bed.

An autopsy and subsequent toxological examination indicated that decedent died from asphyxia due to aspiration of his gastric contents caused by "multiple depressant drug and ethanol overdose."*fn1 On the basis of such evidence and testimony, the referee concluded as a matter of law:

FIRST: On October 7, 1974, the decedent, Walter H. Pollard, III, died during the course of his employment on premises of the employer due to asphyxia caused by the aspiration of gastric contents into the respiratory tract produced by vomiting following the ingestion of ethanol and drugs and medications which severely depressed his Central Nervous System setting in motion the events which caused death, compensable under the terms and provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Act as amended and the judicial interpretations thereof.

This conclusion of law was accepted by both the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board and the Commonwealth Court.*fn2 Appellant now appeals to us arguing that decedent's death was not the result of an injury related to the course of the decedent's employment as required under the ...


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