Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Charles Gouker v. United States Steel Corporation, No. A-75716.
Louis A. Raimond, with him R. M. Guttshall, III, for petitioner.
William R. Caroselli, with him Richard G. Spagnolli, McArdle, Caroselli, Spagnolli & Beachler, for respondent.
Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Craig and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Wilkinson, Jr.
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The only issue raised on this appeal by Petitioner United States Steel Corporation (Employer) is whether the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) erred in affirming a referee's grant of workmen's compensation benefits to Charles Gouker (Claimant) pursuant to Section 306(c)(22) of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act (Act), Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, 77 P.S. § 513(22). It is undisputed that Claimant suffered a "serious and permanent disfigurement . . . of such a character as to produce an unsightly appearance, and such as is not usually incident to the employment." See Section 306(c)(22) of the Act. This appeal, however, concerns the location of the disfigurement. Claimant alleged and the referee and the Board found that it was located on Claimant's neck and, therefore, was compensable pursuant to Section 306(c)(22). Employer argues that the disfigurement is not on Claimant's neck, but rather on his chest and, therefore, is not compensable. For the reasons which follow, we affirm the order of the Board.
In a case involving compensation for alleged disfigurement, the claimant bears the burden of proof concerning the disfigurement. East Coast Shows v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 37 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 312, 313, 390 A.2d 323, 324 (1978). Where, as here, the party with the burden of proof prevails before the compensation authorities, our scope of review is limited to a determination of whether constitutional rights were violated, an error of law was committed, or the findings of fact were not supported by substantial evidence. Latrobe Steel Co. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 41 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 460, 463, 399 A.2d 465, 466 (1979). The party prevailing before the compensation authorities is entitled to the most favorable inferences to be
[ 52 Pa. Commw. Page 644]
drawn from the evidence on appeal. American Refrigerator Equipment Co. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 31 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 590, 595, 377 A.2d 1007, 1010 (1977).
Before reaching the merits of the issue raised here, we must determine whether the location of a disfigurement is a question of fact or a question of law. Employer argues that it is one of law. We disagree. The Courts of this Commonwealth have traditionally held that other issues related to disfigurement are questions of fact. See, e.g., Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 41 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 302, 309, 398 A.2d 1111, 1115 (1979) (seriousness of disfigurement); Industrial Casting Co. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 35 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 172, 174, 384 A.2d 1384, 1386 (1978) (permanence of disfigurement); Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board v. Pizzo, 21 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 370, 372, 346 A.2d 588, 590 (1975) (permanence of disfigurement); Yaklich v. Union Collieries Co., 158 Pa. Superior Ct. 55, 59, 43 A.2d 591, 593 (1945) (questions of disfigurement in general); Madajewski v. Susquehanna Collieries Co., 135 Pa. Superior Ct. 181, 183, 4 A.2d 809, 810 (1939) (questions of disfigurement in general). Today, we hold that questions concerning the location of compensable disfigurements are likewise questions of fact.
Since we have held that the issue before us constitutes a question of fact, we must review the record to determine whether the findings of fact supporting the order of compensation are supported by substantial evidence, that is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. American Refrigerator Equipment Co. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board at 595, 377 A.2d at 1010.
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The record in this case is severely limited. The notes of testimony consist of two pages in which there is no sworn testimony. It is indicated on the record that Claimant appeared before the referee and that the referee observed the disfiguring scar. Also, ...