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THOMAS C. CARDYN v. WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (HEPPENSTALL AND PENNA. MFR. ASSN. INC.) APPEAL HEPPENSTALL COMPANY (12/31/87)

decided: December 31, 1987.

THOMAS C. CARDYN, APPELLEE,
v.
WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (HEPPENSTALL AND PENNA. MFR. ASSN. INC.) APPEAL OF HEPPENSTALL COMPANY



Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court entered March 4, 1986 at No. 2837 C.D. 1982, reversing and remanding Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board entered October 14, 1982 at No. A-78359. Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Hutchinson, Former J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Mcdermott

[ 517 Pa. Page 99]

OPINION

This is an appeal from the Commonwealth Court's reinstatement of a referee's decision awarding workmen's compensation benefits to appellee, Thomas C. Cardyn. This award had been reversed by the Workmen's Compensation

[ 517 Pa. Page 100]

Appeal Board on the ground that appellee had not met his burden of proof in establishing a causal connection between a work-related injury and the disability.

The germane facts of this case are as follows. Appellee was employed as an apprentice machinist by Heppenstall Company, a Pittsburgh based steel manufacturer. On March 15, 1974, while attempting to loosen a tightly fastened machine bolt, appellee lost his footing, fell on the machine's steel platform and struck his right knee. Appellee was taken to a local hospital for x-rays and released that same day. After the intervening weekend appellee attempted to resume work, but was forced to abandon the job because of pain to his knee. The following day appellee was seen by a physician and given a cortisone injection to relieve the pain. At the time of this treatment the diagnosis was arthritis.

Approximately four months later, on July 26, 1974, appellee underwent a surgical procedure commonly known as a "total knee." With this procedure the knee joint is totally removed and replaced with an artificial prosthesis. Unfortunately, appellee's leg became infected as a result of the surgery, which caused more problems for appellee. Ultimately, the knee joint was fused which severely limited appellee's ability and rendered him totally disabled.

On May 27, 1975, appellee filed a claim for workmen's compensation benefits. Hearings were conducted between 1976 and 1979, during which appellee offered medical testimony purporting to show the extent of his disability and the cause.

The referee accepted this evidence as sufficient and awarded benefits. However, the Board reversed the referee on the basis that appellee's evidence did not unequivocally establish a causal connection between the fall at work and the resultant disability. On appeal the Commonwealth Court reversed the Board and reinstated the referee's award.*fn1 Upon petition we granted allowance of appeal.

[ 517 Pa. Page 101]

This case concerns a claimant's burden of proof in proving causation between a work-related injury and a disability. There are in reality two issues presented. The first is whether the disability suffered by appellee is of a kind which requires expert medical evidence to prove causation. The second is whether the evidence presented by appellee was unequivocal as to the issue of causation.

The general principles of law in this area of workmen's compensation are well settled. At the outset, in a workmen's compensation case the claimant has the burden of establishing the right to compensation and all of the elements necessary to support an award. Halaski v. Hilton Hotel, 487 Pa. 313, 409 A.2d 367 (1979). This includes establishing a causal relationship between a work-related incident and an alleged disability. Florig v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 388 Pa. 419, 130 A.2d 445 (1957); Monahan v. Seeds & Durham, 336 Pa. 67, 6 A.2d 889 (1939).

The Commonwealth Court in this case held that appellee's injury was such that the causal connection was obvious. Thus they held that under Morgan v. Giant Markets, 483 Pa. 421, 397 A.2d 415 ...


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