Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Neil Bartholme v. Wyoming Sand & Stone, No. A-81739.
Kathleen A. Lenahan, Lenahan & Dempsey, P.C., for petitioner.
George E. Clark, Jr., McHale, Clark & Roth, for respondent, Neil Bartholme.
Judges Rogers, Craig and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.
[ 76 Pa. Commw. Page 459]
Mr. Bartholme suffered a serious and disabling injury on November 9, 1979 when he was struck in the face and chest area by pieces of a barricade which had been rammed by a tractor-trailer. Bartholme received workmen's compensation benefits until he returned to work on April 7, 1980 with no loss in earnings. When his employer's*fn1 insurance carrier filed a petition for termination, Bartholme claimed additional benefits for serious and permanent disfigurement under the provisions of Section 306(c)(22) of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act (Act), Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, 77 P.S. § 513(22).
After a hearing at which Bartholme appeared personally and presented color photographs of his face and neck area, and after receiving the deposition of a plastic surgeon, the referee found that claimant had
[ 76 Pa. Commw. Page 460]
sustained serious and permanent disfigurement and awarded Bartholme 25 weeks of compensation at $227 per week.
Bartholme appealed to the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) which held, after viewing the claimant, that the referee made a "capricious and serious mistake" and, without changing any of the referee's findings, awarded Bartholme 50 weeks of compensation.
The employer's appeal to this Court followed.
In its opinion, the Board declared that it was aware of prior cases of this Court and of our Supreme Court*fn2 which had discussed the issue of the Board's view of a claimant in a loss of use or disfigurement case, but opined that the Board was not prohibited by that case law from viewing a claimant. The Board held that its personal view was more helpful than any word description or even photographs, which might depend upon the photographer's expertise. The Board also stated that by exercising its authority in viewing claimants in such cases, it would promote uniformity in awards in this area of the law, noting that a majority of the referees would give, in the Board's opinion, a substantially higher award in the instant case.
This Court, of course, has never held that the Board could not, in a proper case, view a claimant. What we have consistently maintained is that where the referee's findings are based upon substantial evidence, the Board may not, solely on the basis of its own view of the subject, modify the referee's award. Allegheny Ludlum ...