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BETHLEHEM STEEL CORPORATION v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (05/25/82)

decided: May 25, 1982.

BETHLEHEM STEEL CORPORATION, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD AND EVELYN P. TOMPKINS, RESPONDENTS



Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Evelyn P. Tompkins, Widow of Jack Keith Tompkins, deceased v. Bethlehem Steel Corporation, No. A-79917.

COUNSEL

John E. Person, III, McCormick, Reeder, Nichols, Sarno, Bahl & Knecht, for petitioner.

Richard A. Gray, Mitchell, Mitchell & Gray, for respondent, Evelyn P. Tompkins.

Judges Blatt, Williams, Jr. and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt. Judge Mencer did not participate in the decision in this case.

Author: Blatt

[ 66 Pa. Commw. Page 580]

The petitioner, Bethlehem Steel Corporation, seeks review of an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) which upheld a referee's decision granting a claim for benefits filed by Mrs. Evelyn P. Tompkins for the death of her husband Jack Keith Tompkins. The referee found inter alia :

[t]hat on August 20, 1976, while in the course of his employment, the decedent was struck by a ball of wire on his side, aggravating, causing and precipitating a rent and tear and blow out of the pre-existing abdominal aortic aneurysm contributing to and resulting in the decedent's death at 6:05 P.M. on August 20, 1976.

The petitioner argues that the finding of the referee that the decedent was struck by a bundle of wire in the course of his employment was based solely upon inadmissible hearsay testimony*fn1 and that it therefore was not supported by substantial evidence.

The only truly necessary finding in the referee's opinion to which the petitioner objects, however, is

[ 66 Pa. Commw. Page 581]

    that the decedent was struck by a bundle of wire while at work. Our review of the record reveals that there not only was testimony as to that fact but that the hospital report also stated that the decedent was bumped by a bundle of wire. Even were we to disregard the evidence presented by Mrs. Tompkins,*fn2 we would be forced to conclude that the hospital records constitute substantial evidence to support the referee's finding.

The petitioner further maintains that the medical evidence presented by Dr. Harrison on behalf of Mrs. Tompkins was equivocal in that the doctor testified only that the bump from the bundle of wire "could have" caused the aneurysm to rupture or that it was "a possibility."

Where, as here, there is no obvious causal connection between a work incident and a subsequent injury, unequivocal medical testimony establishing such causation must be presented. Morgan v. Giant Markets, Inc., 483 Pa. 421, 397 A.2d 415 (1979). And the unequivocal nature of that evidence determines its legal competency and is therefore a question of law for this Court to decide based upon our review of the entire testimony of that witness. Lehigh Valley Manpower Program v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 61 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 430, 433 A.2d 935 (1981); Unity Builders, Inc. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 50 ...


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