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PATTIE C. HILLIARD v. WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (WILLIAM PENN HOTEL) (12/14/83)

decided: December 14, 1983.

PATTIE C. HILLIARD, PETITIONER
v.
WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (WILLIAM PENN HOTEL), RESPONDENTS. WILLIAM PENN HOTEL, PETITIONER V. WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (HILLIARD), RESPONDENTS



Appeals from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Pattie C. Hilliard v. William Penn Hotel, No. A-81102.

COUNSEL

Eugene A. Lincoln, for petitioner, Pattie C. Hilliard.

James W. Young, Jr., Sharlock, Repcheck, Engel & Mahler, for respondent/petitioner, William Penn Hotel.

Mark Gordon, Meyer, Darragh, Buckler, Bebenek & Eck, for Commercial Union Insurance Companies and William Penn Hotel.

Judges Williams, Jr., Barry and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.

Author: Blatt

[ 79 Pa. Commw. Page 98]

The present appeals involve an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) affirming a referee's order which dismissed a petition, dated February 9, 1979, claiming benefits for a wrist fracture, and which awarded benefits sought under a second petition, dated November 27, 1979, claiming a work-related injury from the aggravation of a pre-existing granuloma (lesion). Pattie C. Hilliard (claimant) appeals the dismissal of the February 9 petition and the time period for which benefits were awarded under the November 27 petition.*fn1 Appeal No. 2119 C.D. 1982. The William Penn Hotel (employer) and its insurer, Commercial Union Insurance Co., have cross-appealed the Board's decision to award benefits for the aggravation of the pre-existing condition. Appeal No. 2182 C.D. 1982. These appeals were consolidated for disposition.

[ 79 Pa. Commw. Page 99]

The claimant had filed two claim petitions. The February 9 petition alleged that she had fractured her wrist at work on January 11, 1979 while attempting to kill a rat. In the November 27 petition, she alleged that a pre-existing condition had been aggravated by her exposure to cleaning fluids used in the course of her employment. Following the referee's decision which denied benefits for the wrist fracture but awarded benefits for aggravation of a pre-existing granuloma, both the claimant and the employer appealed to the Board which, in turn, remanded for clarification of the referee's findings.*fn2 At this point, the two claim petitions were consolidated, and additional evidence was heard by the referee who then resubmitted similar findings and an identical order to the Board. The Board affirmed the referee's decision to dismiss the wrist fracture claim (February 9 petition) and to award benefits for the aggravation of the pre-existing granuloma (November 27 petition). The present cross-appeals followed.

Our scope of review in a workmen's compensation case where the party with the burden of proof, here the claimant, did not prevail below and where the Board took no additional evidence is limited to a determination of whether or not the referee as fact-finder capriciously disregarded competent evidence, leaving to the referee questions of credibility and the resolution of conflicts in testimony. Cooper v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 49 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 488, 411 A.2d 859 (1980).

[ 79 Pa. Commw. Page 100]

With regard to the February 9 claim petition, the referee found that "[s]ometime during the period from October, 1978 to January 19, 1979, claimant fractured her left wrist; but the said injury was not sustained in the course of her employment with employer, nor was it related thereto." The claimant argues that the referee capriciously disregarded competent evidence when he held that the wrist fracture did not occur in the course of employment. She testified before the referee that she injured her wrist at work on January 11, 1979. She presented no corroborating testimony, the referee obviously chose not to believe her testimony,*fn3 and, it is a well-established principle that the referee may disbelieve a witness' testimony even in the absence of contradictory evidence. Zander v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Warrington Equipment Co.), 68 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 412, 449 A.2d 784 (1982).

The claimant argues alternatively that her wrist, weakened by her granuloma condition, fractured.*fn4 Where, as here, no obvious causal connection exists between a claimant's injury (fractured wrist) and the alleged cause (granuloma), the claimant must offer unequivocal medical testimony to establish the causal relationship. Porochniak v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 67 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 368, 447 A.2d 346 (1982). We held recently in ...


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