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NANCY NOVAK v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (06/10/81)

decided: June 10, 1981.

NANCY NOVAK, WIDOW OF JOSEPH NOVAK, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD, JAMES L. DETWEILER AND ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, RESPONDENTS



Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Nancy Novak, widow of Joseph Novak v. James L. Detweiler, No. A-75811.

COUNSEL

Edward J. Hardiman, with him Jeffrey T. Sultanik, Pearlstine, Salkin, Hardiman & Robinson, for petitioner.

James M. Marsh, with him Thomas R. Bond, LaBrum and Doak, for respondents.

Judges Mencer, Blatt and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.

Author: Macphail

[ 59 Pa. Commw. Page 597]

Nancy Novak (Claimant), widow of Joseph Novak (Decedent), appeals from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board), affirming the referee's dismissal of Claimant's fatal claim petition filed under Section 108(n) of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act (Act).*fn1

The Decedent was employed by James L. Detweiler (Employer) as an apprentice plumber from February 9, 1973 until his death on August 29, 1973. In July and August of 1973, Decedent, in the course of his employment, worked with his Employer at a number of job sites including the "Williamson" property and the "Godshall" property.

The work at the "Williamson" property, performed between July 13, 1973, and August 8, 1973,

[ 59 Pa. Commw. Page 598]

    involved a plumbing job and the laying of sewer pipes from the old house on the property out to the street. The basement floor of the house contained stagnant water, as did an open cistern in the basement. Decedent and his employer dug a trench for the sewer line at that site in wet ground. They worked in that trench and other trenches in the same residential development for half a day on August 7, 1973. Later on August 7, 1973, the pair worked on a blocked sewer at the "Godshall" property; there both men reached into an air vent pipe to attempt removal of the blockage.

On August 8, 1973, Decedent was suddenly afflicted by a severe headache followed in the next days by a rash and a high fever, among other symptoms of an illness. Decedent was admitted to the hospital on August 14, 1973, and was discharged on August 20, 1973, with a diagnosis of and treatment for "Acute Arthritis Probably Viral." Decedent's symptoms recurred, however, and he was readmitted on August 24, 1973. Thereafter, Decedent's condition quickly deteriorated; he fell into unconsciousness and died on August 29, 1973. On the official death certificate filed August 30, 1973, the cause of Decedent's death was listed as "Bi-lateral Confluent Bronchopneumonia."

Claimant attempted to prove before the referee that the Decedent's death was not caused primarily by bronchopneumonia, but by the disease of leptospirosis ...


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