Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in the case of Manojkumar D. Patel v. Sauquoit Fibers Company, No. A-83494.
Manojkumar D. Patel, petitioner, for himself.
Kathleen A. Lenahan, Lenahan & Dempsey, P.C., for respondent, Sauquoit Fibers Company.
Judges MacPhail, Doyle and Barry, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle. This decision was reached prior to the resignation of Judge Williams, Jr.
This is an appeal of the decision and order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) determining that Manojkumar D. Patel's (Claimant's) second petition to set aside a final receipt is barred by the doctrine of res judicata and denying Claimant's request for a de novo hearing or a rehearing.
Claimant sustained a work related ankle injury on October 12, 1975 and received workmen's compensation benefits from March 23, 1976 through July 18, 1976. On July 19, 1976 Claimant returned to work and on October 20, 1976 he signed a final settlement
receipt. Two days later, Claimant was laid off until October 22, 1977. Meanwhile, in the summer of 1977 Claimant had filed a claim petition apparently under Section 301(a) of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act*fn1 (Act) alleging a twenty-five per cent permanent disability arising from his October 12, 1975 injury. Because Claimant had signed a final receipt the referee properly treated the petition as one to set aside that final receipt. At the hearing the referee heard testimony regarding both Claimant's ankle injury and the presence of tuberculosis in the injured ankle area. The referee found, however, that Claimant had not met his burden of establishing that all disability due to Claimant's injury had not in fact terminated. The Board and this Court, on January 23, 1981, affirmed that decision. Patel v. Sauquoit Fibers Co., 56 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 279, 424 A.2d 621 (1981). Prior to the issuance of that decision by this Court, however, the Claimant, on May 10, 1979, again petitioned for a hearing, this time under Section 301(c)(2)*fn2 and Section 108*fn3 of the Act (pertaining to occupational diseases) alleging partial disability due to the tubercular condition in his ankle. Claimant further alleged that the date his disability began was on October 12, 1975 (the date of his ankle injury). On October 5, 1981 a referee accepted written evidence from Claimant over the employer's objections, but did not take any oral testimony. The referee subsequently determined that Claimant was, in actuality, merely attempting to bring the same claim again and thus dismissed the petition citing the principle of res judicata as the reason for his determination.
Claimant argued to the Board that the doctrine of res judicata was not applicable because he was now seeking recovery under Sections 301(c)(2) and 108 of the Act for his tuberculosis, rather than under Section 301(a) for the ankle injury. The Board, however, noted that the referee in Claimant's prior hearing had considered the tuberculosis claim (although Claimant's 1977 petition did not mention tuberculosis) and had concluded that the tuberculosis was not work related. The referee's Conclusion of Law number 3 stated:
[t]hat any disability the claimant alleges he may suffer is due to the residual effects of tuberculosis of the bone in the right ankle as a result of which [sic] interferes with his walking pattern. That said condition is non-work related and the claimant is not disabled as a result of this condition.
Therefore, the Board affirmed the referee's decision and denied Claimant's request for either a de novo hearing or a ...