Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in the case of Andrew G. Young v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation, No. A-843966.
Mario Santilli, with him, Sylvester A. Beozzo, Cooper, LePore and Dreeland, for petitioner.
Michael D. Sherman, with him, Roy F. Walters, Jr., Fried, Kane, Walters & Zuschlag, for respondent, Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation.
Judges MacPhail and Doyle, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail. Dissenting Opinion by Senior Judge Barbieri.
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Andrew G. Young (Claimant) appeals from a decision of the Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Appeal
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Board (Board) which reversed a referee's decision granting benefits to Claimant. We must determine whether the Board erred in concluding that Claimant's claim was barred by the statute of limitations. We affirm.
Claimant was a full-time employee of Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. (Employer) until his last day of work on March 13, 1975. Throughout the course of his employment, Claimant suffered severe cervical and lumbar spondylosis. As of March 14, 1975, Claimant became totally disabled and unable to continue his employment due to aggravation of his severe cervical and lumbar spondylosis.
Claimant did not learn that his injuries were work-related until so informed by his treating physician, Dr. John B. Blakely, in a letter dated April 3, 1978. Claimant filed a claim petition on April 19, 1978.
The referee found that Claimant gave Employer timely notice of his injuries pursuant to Section 311 of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act (Act), Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, 77 P.S. § 631. The referee concluded that Claimant was not barred from recovering under Section 315 of the Act, as amended, 77 P.S. § 602, because "[C]laimant filed his claim petition within three years of when he knew, or by the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known of the existence of his injuries and their possible relationship to his employment." Referee's Conclusion of Law No. 3.
On appeal, the Board reversed:
In the instant matter, claimant's injury was in the nature of an aggravation of a pre-existing condition. The aggravation last occurred on March 13, 1975 when claimant retired from his employment. That being the case, claimant had three years from that date in which to pursue a claim under the provisions of the Act. The fact
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that claimant did not become aware that his disability was work-related until three years after he retired would have no bearing on this fact. (See Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board v. Niemann, 24 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 377, 356 A.2d 370 (1976).) Therefore, because claimant's Petition was not filed until April 19, 1978, a period greater than the three-year statute of limitations, claimant's Petition cannot be considered to be timely filed.
Our focus in this appeal is on the time limitations in the Act's notice of injury and claim petition filing provisions. Section 315 of the Act, as amended, 77 P.S. § 602, provides as follows:
§ 602. Claims for compensation; when barred; exception
In cases of personal injury all claims for compensation shall be forever barred, . . . unless within three years after the injury, one of the parties shall have filed a petition as provided in article four hereof. . . . However, in cases of injury resulting from ionizing radiation in which the nature of the injury or its relationship to the employment is not known to the employe, the time for filing a claim shall not begin to run until the employe knows, or by the ...