Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Tillie Jane Oakes v. Woolrich Woolen Mills, No. A-79903.
Charles R. Rosamilia, Jr., for petitioner.
James M. Horne, McQuaide, Blasko, Schwartz, Fleming & Faulkner, for respondent, Woolrich Woolen Mills.
President Judge Crumlish and Judges Blatt and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt. Judge Mencer did not participate in the decision in this case.
[ 66 Pa. Commw. Page 570]
This is an appeal from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) reversing a referee's grant of benefits to Tillie Jane Oakes (claimant) for an injury which the referee had found compensable under The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act.*fn1
The claimant was employed by Woolrich Woolen Mills (employer) as a sewing machine operator from April 1976 until January 18, 1979, when she was unable to continue working due to severe pain in both hands. Following surgery on January 22, 1979, the first of two surgical procedures performed on her hands for carpal tunnel syndrome, she petitioned for benefits, and the referee found that she had sustained a work-related injury as a result of which she became totally disabled from January 18, 1979 until July 28, 1979. On appeal, the Board took no additional evidence but reversed, finding that the referee had erred in concluding that the claimant's disability was work-related.
Where the party with the burden of proof has prevailed before the factfinder, our scope of review and that of the Board when it takes no additional evidence,
[ 66 Pa. Commw. Page 571]
is limited to determining whether or not there has been an error of law or a violation of constitutional rights and whether or not the referee's findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence, Custom Concrete Corp. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 52 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 331, 415 A.2d 989 (1980), and the party who prevailed before the factfinder is entitled to the benefit of the most favorable inferences to be drawn from the evidence. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board v. Thomas V. Ferrick, Inc., 23 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 591, 353 A.2d 490 (1976).
Injuries are compensable under the Act if they arise in the course of employment and are related thereto, Thomas v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 55 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 449, 423 A.2d 784 (1980), and, when the causal connection between the disability and the work activity is not obvious, as where the injury is not attributable to a single incident, the burden is upon the claimant to establish the connection by unequivocal medical testimony. American Refrigerator Equipment Company v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 31 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 590, 377 A.2d 1007 (1977). It is well-settled, of course, that, for an injury to be compensable under the Act, it is not required that the injury have resulted from any sudden occurrence or accident; it may be due to daily trauma or to a daily aggravation of a pre-existing injury. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 40 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 142, 396 A.2d 902 (1979).
At the hearing, the claimant introduced a report of her treating physician, in which he stated that:
The patient developed bilateral carpal tunnel syndromes due to trauma she received in her work by lifting and twisting and constantly hitting the palms of her hands on the heavy ...