Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Mary C. Rawling v. Pittsburgh Board of Education, No. A-74571.
Thomas W. Henderson, with him Joel Persky, of Baskin & Sears, for petitioner.
David H. Dille, Assistant Solicitor, with him Robert J. Stefanko, Solicitor, for respondent.
Judges Mencer, Blatt and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Mencer.
[ 51 Pa. Commw. Page 386]
Mary C. Rawling (claimant) appeals from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) which dismissed her claim petition and thus denied her benefits under The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act (Act).*fn1 Claimant was employed as a cleaner by the Pittsburgh Board of Education. On January 6, 1975, her purse was snatched from her as she was walking from two portable classrooms, where she had been working, to the main school building. Claimant immediately reported the purse snatching to the principal of the school and told other co-employees of the incident. The police were called and claimant was interviewed by investigating officers and thereafter she completed her daily work duties.
The claimant testified at the hearing before the referee that she was thrown to the ground when her purse was snatched and this resulted in an injury to her right knee. In addition, claimant's pre-existing psychotic condition was aggravated and she suffers from traumatic neurosis. These conditions are totally disabling and claimant would be entitled to compensation if she had provided her employer with the required statutory notice of her injury.
Recently, our Supreme Court set forth the legal principles which are applicable here, when it stated in Katz v. Evening Bulletin, 485 Pa. 536, 539-40, 403 A.2d 518, 519-20 (1979):
Section 311 of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act, 77 P.S. § 631, makes notice to the employer within 120 days of an injury arising in the course of employment a prerequisite to compensation under the Act. We recognize as a threshold principle of construction
[ 51 Pa. Commw. Page 387]
'that [c]courts should not read into The Workmen's Compensation Act a stricter requirement than the language of the Act imports in regard to notice of an accident. It must be liberally construed' to effect the purposes of the provision. McCann v. Cross Bros. Meat Packers, 205 Pa. Super. 255, 257, 208 A.2d 887, 889 (1965). See e.g., Plasteel Products Corp. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Bd., 32 Pa. Commw. 405, 379 A.2d 908 (1977) (obligation of court to liberally construe Act so that its humanitarian purpose of protecting workmen is realized); General Tire & Rubber Co. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Bd., 16 Pa. Commw. 473, 332 A.2d 867 (1975). The notice provisions of the Act permit an employer to investigate claims while the events in question are still recent. Notice may also warn an employer of dangerous employment conditions and, thus, facilitate their speedy correction. See Padilla v. Chain Bike Corp., 27 Pa. Commw. 190, 365 A.2d 903 (1976); McCann, supra; Wilkinson v. United Parcel Service of Pa., 158 Pa. Super. 22, 43 A.2d 408 (1945); Dorsch v. Fisher Scientific Co., 136 Pa. Super. 197, 7 A.2d 604 (1939).
Section 312 of the Act specifies that notice 'shall inform the employer that a certain employe received an injury, described in ordinary language, in the course of his employment on or about a specified time, at or near a place specified.' . . . Whether notice has been given is a question of fact. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board v. Caves, 22 Pa. Commw. 102, 347 A.2d 761 (1975); Wilkinson, supra. The referee is the ultimate factfinder where, as here, the appeals board takes no additional evidence.
[ 51 Pa. Commw. Page 388]
E.g., Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 32 Pa. Commw. 330, 379 A.2d 648 (1977). And the facts found by the referee are binding on reviewing courts. See Dunlap v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 17 Pa. Commw. 19, 330 A.2d 555 (1975). . . . Thus, we are limited to an examination of whether there is competent, substantial evidence in the record to support the factfinder's determination. Montgomery Mills Co. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeals Board, 26 Pa. Commw. 471, 364 A.2d 508 (1976) ('"Substantial evidence" is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind ...