Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Richard Schuster v. Lee Tire & Rubber Company, No. A-79937.
Roger S. Spalding, with him Stephen R. Bolden, Fell, Spalding, Goff & Rubin, for petitioner.
Charles S. Katz, Jr., Swartz, Campbell & Detweiler, for respondents.
Judges Rogers, Williams, Jr. and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.
On October 5, 1973, Richard Schuster was engaged in the mill of his employer, Lee Tire and Rubber Company. Mr. Schuster, hired by Lee Tire as a white-collar office worker, had been sent into the mill along with other office workers in order to prevent a cessation in tire production due to an ongoing labor dispute with the employer's unionized employees. In his attempt to carry out the unaccustomed duties in the mill, which involved the manipulation of sheets and rolls of rubber weighing in excess of two hundred pounds and the division of these rolls from the machine of their creation by means of a knife, Mr. Schuster was severely injured by a wound to his wrist inflicted by the knife of a novitiate co-worker similarly engaged.
A claim petition was timely filed and at a hearing conducted by a referee on April 26, 1976, the claimant's treating physician, Dr. Victor Vare, a Board Certified specialist in orthopedic and hand surgery, testified that the claimant's injuries included the laceration of tendons and other structures and the complete severance at two points of the ulnar nerve. When asked to describe the function of the ulnar nerve, Dr. Vare testified that "[t]he ulnar nerve supplies all of what we call the intrinsic musculature of the hand. All of the little small, fine tuning performing muscles are supplied by the ulnar nerve within the hand." In addition Dr. Vare testified that the ulnar nerve innervates certain muscle groups controlling specified gross movements of the fingers and thumb and the nerve further provides sensation from the whole of one finger, portions of other fingers, and areas on both the palm and back of the hand.
When asked to describe the extent of the claimant's disability resulting from his injury and believed by the physician to be permanent, Dr. Vare proceeded with a detailed description of each finger in turn and the extent to which its function and sensation had been curtailed by the accident.*fn1 This testimony is accurately represented by factual findings of the referee contained in his decision dated December 1, 1976 as follows:
10. The present condition of Claimant's little finger on his left hand resulting from the accident is one of deformity, described as ulnar claw. There is no sensation in the little finger and it has a loss of function.
11. The ring finger of Claimant's left hand has a mild deformity and has suffered a loss of
function. Sensation in the ring finger of the left hand has been lost on the ulnar or little finger half of the ring finger.
12. The intrinsic musculature of the middle or long finger of Claimant's left hand is not functioning.
13. The index finger of Claimant's left hand has lost the use of the abduction muscle used for the process of pinching, making Claimant's pinch weak.
14. Claimant's left thumb has lost innervation in one half of the three major intrinsic muscles of the thumb, making the thumb weak.
Direct examination of the claimant consisted primarily of his response to queries as to whether he could perform with his left hand specified common tasks. The claimant testified that he is right-handed and, therefore, has adapted somewhat to his disability but that the inability to move several fingers and limitations on the movements of others in combination with the overall loss of the ability to coordinate the left hand's movements and extensive loss of sensation render him unable to cut his food, to put toothpaste on his toothbrush, to shave, to tie his necktie, to drive a manual transmission automobile, to open the driver's side car door from the inside -- in sum; to perform any task which requires use of the left hand or use of both hands in combination. The claimant further testified that his injured hand was the cause of considerable discomfort most of the time and, when exposed to cold, was even less useful and more painful than usual.
Cross-examination of the claimant appears to have left largely undisturbed the impression created by the direct testimony that the injured left hand is useless for virtually every task normally undertaken by ...