Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in the case of Claim of Joseph F. Piacine v. Catalytic, Inc., dated December 27, 1978.
Chester C. Corse, Jr., Williamson, Friedberg & Jones, for petitioner.
William C. McGovern, with him Joseph R. Thompson, for respondents.
Judges Craig, Williams, Jr. and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino. Judge Wilkinson, Jr. did not participate in the decision in this case.
This is an appeal from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Board of Review (Board) which affirmed a referee's order which officially acknowledged the withdrawal of a petition to modify a Notice of Compensation Payable filed by the appellee, Catalytic, Inc., (Catalytic). We affirm.
On August 18, 1975 Joseph Piacine (claimant) was injured in an industrial accident while working as a welder for Catalytic. Thereafter, Catalytic began to pay claimant maximum total disability benefits pursuant to a Notice of Compensation Payable executed
on September 2, 1975. On November 8, 1977 Catalytic filed a modification petition which alleged that claimant's disability was no longer total. A hearing on this petition was held on January 3, 1978, and subsequently the referee agreed to continue the matter until April 11, 1978 so that additional testimony could be presented. Prior to this new hearing date, claimant's counsel and a representative of Catalytic's insurance carrier entered into settlement negotiations, and the parties orally agreed to submit a Stipulation of Facts to the referee at the April hearing. In this stipulation the parties agreed that claimant had suffered a specific loss of his right foot as a result of his accident, entitling him to the scheduled compensation benefits specified in Section 306(c) of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act (Act),*fn1 77 P.S. § 513, less any compensation benefits he had already received. Three days before this stipulation was to be presented to the referee, however, claimant committed suicide. At the time of claimant's death the stipulation had apparently been reduced to writing by claimant's counsel, but neither party had signed it. The referee subsequently postponed the April 11, 1978 hearing.
On September 18, 1978 claimant's counsel filed a "Supplemental Answer to the Modification Petition" which alleged (1) that the parties had agreed to resolve their dispute by submitting a stipulation of facts, (2) that claimant's widow should be substituted in the proceedings, and (3) that claimant's widow was entitled to her husband's specific loss compensation benefits pursuant to Section 306(g) of the Act, 77 P.S. § 541. Shortly thereafter, Catalytic informed the referee that it was withdrawing its modification petition because of claimant's death.
A final referee's hearing was held on November 8, 1978. At this hearing claimant's counsel argued that the referee should not permit the withdrawal of the modification petition since the parties had agreed prior to claimant's death to submit a stipulation of facts. Alternatively, claimant's counsel argued that the modified answer filed on September 18, 1978 should be treated as a claim petition by claimant's widow. After considering these arguments the referee concluded that Catalytic had properly withdrawn its modification petition and marked the case closed. The Board subsequently affirmed and the present appeal followed.
Before this Court the claimant alleges that the referee abused his discretion in permitting the withdrawal of the ...