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RUTH DUMAS v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (12/18/80)

decided: December 18, 1980.

RUTH DUMAS, WIDOW OF LOUIS DUMAS, DECEASED, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD AND LATROBE FORGE AND SPRING, RESPONDENTS



Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Ruth Dumas, widow of Louis Dumas, deceased v. Latrobe Forge and Spring, No. A-76472.

COUNSEL

Edwin H. Beachler, McArdle, Caroselli, Spagnolli & Beachler, for petitioner.

Mary J. McCrory, Kyle and Ehrman, for appellee.

Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Craig and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino.

Author: Palladino

[ 55 Pa. Commw. Page 460]

Appellant appeals the order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) which denied her petition for review and reversed the Referee's decision to permit her to recover for the loss of use of both her deceased husband's eyes as a compensable permanent injury. Appellee and the Board contend that the right to petition for a review of a compensation award made pursuant to The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act (Act), Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, 77 P.S. § 1 et seq., belongs solely to the injured worker unless the Act expressly reserves

[ 55 Pa. Commw. Page 461]

    rights in the worker's survivors. We affirm the Board's order.

Following a work-connected injury, appellant's husband lost the use of both eyes and received disability payments until his death which resulted from causes unrelated to his work. During his lifetime claimant never disputed the terms of the compensation agreement which defined his disability benefits. As claimant's surviving dependent, appellant filed a petition for review of the compensation agreement and alleged that the agreement should be modified to (1) retroactively award specific loss benefits to claimant under Section 306(c) of the Act, 77 P.S. § 513, and (2) as a corollary, pay such benefits to claimant's widow under Section 306(g) of the Act, 77 P.S. § 541.

It is a well established principle that "[t]he provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Act are remedial in nature and are to be liberally construed, with borderline interpretations resolved in favor of the injured employee." Turner v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 479 Pa. 618, 629, 389 A.2d 42, 47 (1978). But "[w]hile the Act is to be liberally construed, the meaning of clear and unambiguous words used by the legislature cannot be distorted." (Citation omitted.) Ciabattoni v. Birdsboro Steel Foundry & Machine Co., 179 Pa. Superior Ct. 538, 542, 118 A.2d 229, 231 (1955), rev'd on other grounds, 386 Pa. 179, 125 A.2d 365 (1956).

In Frederico Granero Co. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 48 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 252, 409 A.2d 1187 (1980), this Court held that an employee's widow could receive benefits to which the employee would have been entitled if he had actually filed a claim during his lifetime. Frederico Granero Co. concerned the initial presentation of a request for compensation and was governed by Section 410, 77 P.S. § 751, which states in pertinent part: "If, after

[ 55 Pa. Commw. Page 462]

    any injury, the employer . . . and the employe or his dependent, concerned in any injury, shall fail to agree upon the facts thereof or the compensation due under this act, the employee or his dependents may present a claim petition for compensation to the department." (Emphasis added.) ...


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