Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in the case of Charles Williams v. City Welding & Mfg. Co., No. A-88433.
Richard E. Flannery, Balph, Nicolls, Mitsos, Flannery & Motto, for petitioner.
Richard G. Spagnolli, Caroselli, Spagnolli & Beachler, for respondent, Charles Williams.
Judges Craig and Barry, and Senior Judge Narick, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.
[ 105 Pa. Commw. Page 573]
The pivotal question which the court must presently address regards the burden of proof which a claimant must sustain under section 413 of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act*fn1 in order to warrant a reinstatement of benefits after the claimant has signed a final receipt.
On March 27, 1978, claimant Charles Williams suffered a work-related injury when acid splashed into his
[ 105 Pa. Commw. Page 574]
left eye. The claimant received compensation pursuant to a Notice of Compensation Payable beginning the day after his disability, March 28, 1978, until he returned to work on April 5, 1978. On April 27, 1978, the claimant signed a final receipt.
On May 20, 1982, more than three years later, the claimant filed a petition to set aside final receipt, on a form captioned "Section 434,"*fn2 alleging that he had lost the use of his left eye for all practical intents and purposes. Further, the claimant stated that, because his claim involved an eye injury, it was excepted from the general three-year statute of limitations.
Following a hearing at which the claimant introduced expert medical testimony, the referee concluded, "[t]he claimant has sustained his burden of proof that he has sustained the loss of use of his left eye for all practical intents and purposes as a result of the injury." The referee hence directed the employer to pay compensation to the claimant for the loss of use of his left eye.
On appeal, the board affirmed the referee's decision, concluding that the claimant's petition, although erroneously filed on a section 434 form, could state grounds for relief under section 413, because the claimant had specified in his petition, consistent with section 413, that the three-year statute of limitations does not apply to eye cases. The board then concluded that the claimant's burden was to prove that the eye was lost for all practical intents and purposes and that the claimant had sustained that burden.
Initially, we agree with the board's conclusion that the claimant's failure to employ the proper form in seeking relief was not fatal to his claim. The board cited Dunmore School District v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Lorusso), 89 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 368,
[ 105 Pa. Commw. Page 575492]
A.2d 773 (1985), in which this court reiterated that, because strictness of pleading is not required in workmen's compensation cases, evidence which justifies relief under some section of the Act warrants the granting of that relief, although the claimant may have presented his petition under an improper section. Rose v. Horn & Hardart Baking Co., 214 Pa. Superior Ct. 56, 251 A.2d 721 (1969).
Both sections 413 and 434 of the Act include the general limitation that a claimant may seek a change in his compensation status by filing a petition within three years after the most recent payment of compensation. However, only section 413, which provides for reinstatement of an award or ...