Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in the case of William L. Galusha v. Harold Jamison's Trucking, No. A-81087.
Joseph P. Lenahan, Lenahan & Dempsey, for petitioner.
Perry S. Patterson, for respondent, William Galusha.
Judges Blatt, Williams, Jr. and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
[ 69 Pa. Commw. Page 252]
Harold Jamison Trucking (Jamison) appeals an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) which affirmed a referee's order which granted claimant William Galusha's petition to set aside a final receipt.
On October 24, 1977, the claimant, an over-the-road truck driver, fell from a flat bed trailer and sustained a lower back injury. He received benefits from that time until he executed a final receipt on July 26, 1978, but he then filed a petition on June 20, 1980 to set aside final receipt alleging that he experienced what his doctors have described as a recurrence of his original injury in December of 1979. The referee, believing that the claimant established by unequivocal, clear and convincing medical evidence that all disability attributable
[ 69 Pa. Commw. Page 253]
to the original injury had not terminated when the final receipt was executed,*fn1 granted the claimant's petition to set aside the final receipt, ordering that benefits be reinstated commencing January 2, 1978. The Board affirmed and this appeal followed.
Where, as here, the party with the burden of proof prevails below, our scope of review is limited to a determination of whether or not constitutional rights were violated, an error of law was committed, or necessary findings of fact were unsupported by substantial evidence in the record. Birk v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 59 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 546, 430 A.2d 386 (1981).
[ 69 Pa. Commw. Page 254]
Jamison first argues that the claimant failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he suffered a recurrence of his original injury or that he was still disabled at the time when he signed the final receipt. Our close review of the record, however, discloses ample testimony by the claimant's medical experts, based upon examinations subsequent to the signing of a final receipt, to the effect that the claimant's disability caused by the initial injury never actually terminated and had continued on an intermittent, but totally disabling, basis. We believe this to constitute unequivocal and substantial evidence, Akers Central Motor, and the fact that the employer's expert testified to the contrary does not make it any less substantial. The referee was the ultimate fact-finder and could accept or reject testimony and decide what weight it should be given. Shemanski v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 61 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 527, 434 A.2d 847 (1981); Bethlehem Mines Corp. Page 254} v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 55 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 541, 423 A.2d 479 (1980).*fn2
Jamison next argues that the referee and the Board erred in awarding benefits as of January 2, 1978, alleging that the claimant had worked up until December 1, 1979. The record discloses, however, evidence that, although the claimant did attempt other work after signing the final receipt, he was eventually forced to abandon such attempts*fn3 at gainful employment because of the recurrence of his initial injury. When a claimant establishes that the execution of a final receipt was improper, it is treated as if it is no longer in the case, and we cannot say, therefore, that the referee and Board erred in awarding benefits as of January 2, 1978. See U.S. Fidelity & Guaranty Co. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 63 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 191, 437 A.2d 1272 (1981); United States ...