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JAMES W. HULTBERG v. WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (WARREN COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT) (05/19/83)

decided: May 19, 1983.

JAMES W. HULTBERG, SR., PETITIONER
v.
WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (WARREN COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT), RESPONDENTS



Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in the case of James W. Hultberg, Sr. v. Warren County School District, No. A-81080.

COUNSEL

Ronald W. Folino, with him, Harry K. Thomas, Knox, Graham, McLaughlin, Gornall and Sennett, Inc., for petitioner.

Robert L. Saunders, with him, Richard W. Mutzabaugh, Mutzabaugh & Saunders, for respondents.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges MacPhail and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by President Judge Crumlish, Jr.

Author: Crumlish

[ 74 Pa. Commw. Page 385]

James Hultberg appeals a Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board order reversing a referee's decision to set aside a final receipt and reinstating total disability benefits. We affirm.

Hultberg, a Warren County School District employee, sustained injuries in the course of his employment when he fell while de-icing a sidewalk. Hultberg received total disability benefits from February 22, 1979, until his return to work on June 18, 1979. He signed a final receipt on June 22, 1979. In November, 1979, Hultberg stopped working because of severe

[ 74 Pa. Commw. Page 386]

    back pain. He petitioned*fn1 to set aside the final receipt in March of 1980. The Board, in reversing the referee's decision to reinstate benefits, held that the evidence failed to establish a causal connection between the November disability and original injury.

In an action to set aside a final receipt under Section 434 of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act,*fn2 the claimant must prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that all disability attributable to the prior injury had not in fact terminated at the time the final receipt was executed. Charmley v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 60 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 186, 430 A.2d 1225 (1981). Where the party with the burden of proof has prevailed before the referee, and where the Board has not taken additional evidence, our review is limited to determining whether constitutional rights were violated, an error of law was committed, or any necessary findings of fact were unsupported by substantial evidence. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 43 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 495, 402 A.2d 727 (1979).

It is well settled that, where no obvious causal relationship exists between the employee's injury and an alleged accident, unequivocal medical testimony is needed to establish that causal connection. Pines Plaza Lanes v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 61 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 139, 433 A.2d 165 (1981). Hultberg contends that his medical witness' testimony was clear and convincing proof that his disability had not terminated when he executed the final receipt and further that it unequivocally established the causal connection between his disability and the prior injury. We disagree.

[ 74 Pa. Commw. Page ...


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