decided: December 9, 1980.
COOPER-JARRETT, INC., PETITIONER
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD AND DARREL D. MILLER, RESPONDENTS
Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Darrel D. Miller v. Cooper-Jarrett, Inc., No. A-75476.
Samuel H. Elkin, Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, for petitioner.
W. Thomas Malcolm, for respondent, Darrell D. Miller.
Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Craig and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.
[ 55 Pa. Commw. Page 205]
In this workmen's compensation appeal, the employer*fn1 questions an award of compensation by the board,*fn2 affirming a referee's decision awarding compensation to claimant,*fn3 a truck driver.
While driving a truck for the employer on August 10, 1977, from Sharon, Pa. to Napoleon, Ohio, claimant passed over a rough area in the pavement, which caused the truck to bounce. Although the truck seat was equipped with an automatic air-inflated suspension device intended to cushion against bumps, the testimony was that the seat failed to provide protection and claimant was jolted as the seat dropped and hit a post connected to the floor, as the truck simultaneously bounced up.
Claimant continued driving for two hours; when he alighted from the truck and tried to walk, he noticed
[ 55 Pa. Commw. Page 206]
a pain in his hip. However, he completed the trip to Napoleon and prepared for the return to Sharon with another load. Because the pain continued to increase, claimant was unable to complete the return trip.
Claimant alleged that, as a result of the jolt, he injured his neck, back and hip, and was totally disabled for over eight months.
The referee found that claimant had suffered a compensable injury while in the course of his employment, that claimant's injury was an aggravation of an existing condition, and that claimant was totally disabled from August 11, 1977 up to April 2, 1978.
Employer essentially argues on this appeal that the record does not contain substantial evidence to support the referee's conclusion that claimant was partially or totally disabled as a result of an injury sustained in the course of employment.
The referee's conclusion that claimant was disabled is supported by clear evidence in the record. Dr. Barclay, claimant's treating physician, testified unequivocally that claimant was disabled.*fn4 Despite contrary testimony by employer's medical witness, who had examined claimant three months after the incident, the referee chose to accept the testimony of claimant and his treating physician. Questions of credibility are solely within the province of the referee, and his decision to accept the testimony of one competent medical witness over another will not be disturbed on appeal.
[ 55 Pa. Commw. Page 207]
Dr. Barclay testified that claimant "had a sprain which aggravated his injury." However, the employer argues that Dr. Barclay's testimony as to causation is legally insufficient because not unequivocal.*fn6
The general rule is that where no obvious causal relationship exists between a work incident and a disabling injury, a workmen's compensation claimant must establish causation with unequivocal medical testimony in order to recover. Kosobucki v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 49 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 327, 410 A.2d 1315 (1980). However, as Judge Rogers stated in Stone Container Corp. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 50 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 384, 413 A.2d 17 (1980):
[T]he absence of explicit testimony linking the injury to the disability will not preclude recovery where a referee who personally heard the medical evidence has determined that the requisite causation was present and the record as a whole supports the determination.
Id. at 387, 413 A.2d at 19.
Here, the medical testimony and record support the referee's finding that the incident aggravated the disabling condition. Claimant testified that he suffered pain after the incident occurred. Immediately thereafter, he sought treatment from Dr. Barclay, who testified
[ 55 Pa. Commw. Page 209]
that claimant's history connected his pain to the jolt he received when the truck hit the bump. Coupled with the testimony that claimant's previous physical problems had cleared up, the evidence of injury and subsequent medical treatment indicates that the August 10, 1977 injury caused the disabling aggravation of claimant's pre-existing condition. The referee did not err in so finding.
Accordingly, we affirm.
And Now, this 9th day of December, 1980, the order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, dated October 1, 1979, No. A-75476, is affirmed, and it is ordered that judgment be entered in favor of claimant, Darrel D. Miller, and against Cooper-Jarrett, Inc., self-insured, in accordance with said Board order, including provisions for payment of counsel fees.