Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in the case of Richard Sokol v. State Regional Correctional Facility at Mercer, No. A-82249.
Lewis P. McEwen, Bogaty, McEwen, Sparks & Kochems, for petitioner.
Paul Dufallo, with him, S. James Goldman, Assistant Chief Counsel, S. James Goldman, P.C., for respondents.
Judges MacPhail and Colins, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Blatt.
[ 91 Pa. Commw. Page 398]
Richard Sokol (Petitioner) appeals a decision of the Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) which reversed a referee's award of benefits.
Petitioner was employed as a prison guard by the State Regional Correctional Facility at Mercer, Pennsylvania (Employer). On January 24, 1981, while bending down to conduct a routine "pat" search of inmates, Petitioner felt a sharp pain in his back, his left side, and his leg. Petitioner reported this incident to his supervising officer, Lieutenant Harry Wilson. Petitioner also went to the infirmary for medication to relieve his back pain.
Petitioner did not work the next day. On January 26, 1981, Petitioner was admitted to Sharon General Hospital with a diagnosis of a ruptured intervertebral disc. Shortly thereafter, Petitioner underwent a myelogram, a laminectomy and discectomy.
On April 2, 1981, Petitioner filed a claim for compensation and after a hearing, the referee found that Petitioner had sustained an injury during the course of his employment and awarded benefits. The Employer appealed, arguing that Petitioner had not established a causal connection between the injury and his work with unequivocal medical evidence. The Board sustained Employer's appeal and reversed the
[ 91 Pa. Commw. Page 399]
referee's award of benefits. The instant appeal ensued.
Where there is no obvious causal relationship between an injury and work activity, a workmen's compensation claimant must establish the causal connection with unequivocal medical testimony in order to recover, Myers v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Firestone Tire & Rubber Co.), 67 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 603, 447 A.2d 1094 (1982), but where a claimant's disability is obviously and directly the result of a work incident, medical testimony is not required to establish the causal connection. Hills Department Store v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Breon), 73 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 82, 457 A.2d 226 (1983). We have stated that "[l]ay testimony is probative on the issue of physical injury and the cause of that injury only if the cause and effect are so immediate, direct, and natural to common experience as to obviate any need for expert medical opinion." Kistler v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 54 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 334, 337, 421 A.2d 500, 501 (1980).
Employer argues here that it is not clear that patting down prisoners involves force or strain and that therefore the Board was correct in holding that in the absence of unequivocal medical testimony, Petitioner had not established that his back injury arose in the course of his employment. Petitioner argues that pain is an excellent symptom of an injury, citing Morgan v. Giant Markets, Inc., 483 Pa. 421, 397 A.2d 415 (1979), and because Petitioner ...