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CONGOLEUM CORPORATION AND LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE CO. v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (07/23/81)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: July 23, 1981.

CONGOLEUM CORPORATION AND LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE CO., PETITIONERS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD AND DANA DEXTER, RESPONDENTS

Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in the case of Dana Dexter v. Congoleum Corporation, No. A-77304.

COUNSEL

Peter J. Weber, with him Lowell A. Reed, Jr., Rawle & Henderson, for petitioners.

Marc S. Jacobs, of counsel, Galfand, Berger, Senesky, Lurie & March, for respondents.

Judges Mencer, Williams, Jr. and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Mencer.

Author: Mencer

[ 61 Pa. Commw. Page 26]

Congoleum Corporation (Congoleum) and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (Liberty Mutual) have appealed from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) awarding total disability benefits to Dana Dexter (claimant), pursuant to The

[ 61 Pa. Commw. Page 27]

Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act.*fn1 We vacate the order and remand the case for further proceedings.

After 22 years of employment as a heavy-duty mechanic, claimant filed a claim petition seeking total disability benefits, alleging that he suffered from an aggravation of a pre-existing heart condition due to the stress of his daily work activities. At the hearings before the referee, claimant testified that, after a heart attack in 1972, he returned to employment and endured an increasing number of symptoms of coronary insufficiency, until he finally left work on June 2, 1976. Claimant also introduced medical evidence to show that his coronary insufficiency occurred in the course of employment and was related thereto. On the basis of this evidence, the referee awarded claimant total disability benefits as of June 2, 1976.

In this appeal, Liberty Mutual does not contest the award of total disability compensation to claimant. Rather, Liberty Mutual disputes its obligation to pay the benefits, since it was not Congoleum's insurance carrier until March 1, 1976, and the referee made no finding of fact on the date of claimant's injury.*fn2

We must agree that the date of injury is a crucial finding of fact omitted in the referee's decision. Indeed, the findings are primarily a reiteration of the contents of each witness's testimony, without ever

[ 61 Pa. Commw. Page 28]

    resolving the conflicts in credibility raised therein. The referee's findings thus do not indicate whether he granted benefits on the basis of (1) a daily aggravation to a pre-existing condition, resulting in total disability on June 2, 1976, or (2) an injury that occurred in 1975 of which Congoleum was notified, although claimant continued to work until June 2, 1976. Without the resolution of this factual issue raised by the evidence, the liability of Liberty Mutual for claimant's compensation is unclear. We must therefore remand this case for further findings of fact. Page's Department Store v. Velardi, 464 Pa. 276, 346 A.2d 556 (1975).

Accordingly, we enter the following

Order

And Now, this 23rd day of July, 1981, the order of Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board at Docket No. A-77304 is vacated, and the case is remanded to the Board for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Disposition

Order vacated and case remanded.


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