Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Paul Allen Weaver v. Pennsylvania Power Company, No. A-8311.
John George Shorall, II, Shorall and Shorall, for petitioner.
Harry A. Flannery, for respondent, Pennsylvania Power Company.
Judges Williams, Jr. and Doyle and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle. This decision was reached prior to the resignation of Judge Williams, Jr.
[ 87 Pa. Commw. Page 429]
On January 29, 1982, a referee awarded disability benefits to Paul A. Weaver (Claimant) for the loss of use of his left eye pursuant to Section 306(c) of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act.*fn1 On August 4, 1983, the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) reversed this determination, concluding that Claimant had failed to establish a causal connection between his disability and his work-related injury.
Claimant was employed by the Pennsylvania Power Company in Shippingport, Pennsylvania (Employer) as a mechanical maintenance repairman. On October 9, 1978, Claimant was welding iron onto a grating when he struck an arc with his welding rod causing an intense light flash a few inches in front of his left eye. Claimant testified before the referee that at the time of the flash he experienced a severe pain which began in his left eye and extended across his forehead, down the right side of his head and into his neck. The following day, he went to see an optometrist, Dr. Bartolovich, who found nothing wrong.*fn2 Over the next few days, however, Claimant experienced blurred vision. Dr. Bartolovich then referred him to Dr. Sorr, an ophthalmologist. Dr. Sorr examined Claimant seven days after the accident and
[ 87 Pa. Commw. Page 430]
found that the vision in his left eye, which formerly had been 20/20 with corrective lenses, had deteriorated to approximately 20/100. Further examinations, including laboratory tests, revealed the presence of an idiopathic subretinal lesion in Claimant's left eye. The visual acuity in this eye continued to decline for several months, eventually stabilizing at a point somewhere below 20/200, or within the definition of legal blindness.
The referee found as a fact that Claimant had suffered an occupational injury on October 9, 1978, which resulted in his partial blindness. Claimant argues that this finding was correctly based on his own testimony and therefore must not be overturned simply because evidence to the contrary was also introduced.
In a workmen's compensation case, where no additional testimony is taken by the Board, questions of credibility are indeed the sole province of the referee. Universal Cyclops Steel Corp. v. Krawczynski, 9 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 176, 305 A.2d 757 (1973). Where the party with the burden of proof has prevailed before the referee, this Court's scope of review is limited to a determination of whether an error of law has been committed or whether any necessary findings of fact are not supported by substantial evidence. JAB Enterprises, Inc. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Haehn), 79 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 638, 470 A.2d 210 (1984).
But, the well-established rule underpinning this standard of review is that unless there is an obvious causal connection between an injury and a disability, the connection must be proved by unequivocal medical evidence. Burton v. Workmen's Compensation ...