Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in the case of Randy K. Cochran, Sr. v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation, No. A-86569.
Michael D. Sherman, with him, Leonard P. Kane, Jr., Fried, Kane, Walters & Zuschlag, for petitioner.
Timothy Finn, for respondent, Randy K. Cochran, Sr.
Judges MacPhail, Barry and Colins, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Barry.
[ 93 Pa. Commw. Page 176]
Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation (petitioner) appeals an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (board) affirming a referee's decision to reinstate compensation benefits to Randy K. Cochran (claimant).
On April 26, 1979, while employed by petitioner as an oven charger, claimant sustained a work related injury to his right shoulder. He received compensation
[ 93 Pa. Commw. Page 177]
benefits until he returned to work on August 13, 1979. Due to a recurrence of his disability, benefits were reinstated on November 30, 1979. They were again suspended on April 28, 1980, when claimant returned to work as a preheat conveyor operator. Shortly thereafter, however, due to a long history of excessive absenteeism, claimant was given the option to either resign or be fired. He elected to resign and his employment was accordingly terminated on July 18, 1980. Several months later, on May 18, 1981, claimant consulted his physician, Dr. Weiner, due to increased pain in his right shoulder. He was subsequently hospitalized and underwent surgery to his shoulder. On July 13, 1981, he filed the present reinstatement petition alleging a recurrence of disability related to his 1979 injury. The referee found that claimant did suffer a recurrence of his disability on May 18, 1981, and awarded reinstatement of benefits as of that date. The board affirmed the referee's decision. This appeal followed.
In a workmen's compensation case, a claimant seeking reinstatement of benefits must bear the burden of proof. Anderson v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 67 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 581, 447 A.2d 1081 (1982). Where the party bearing that burden of proof prevails below, our scope of review is limited to a determination of whether the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence or errors of law have been committed. Weaver v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Pennsylvania Power Co.), 87 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 428, 487 A.2d 116 (1985).
We must first note that claimant's benefits were suspended rather than terminated. This, of course, means that because there was never a determination that his disability had, in fact, ceased, claimant was not required to prove that he suffered a recurrence of his
[ 93 Pa. Commw. Page 178]
work related disability. However, the fact that he did establish such recurrence certainly proves that he is unable to perform the job he held at the time of injury. That is all which is required of a claimant seeking reinstatement of suspended benefits. Smith v. Workmen's ...