Argued September 14, 1979
November 20, 1979.
Workmen's compensation — Causation — Medical evidence — Insufficient evidence.
1. Where there exists no obvious causal relationship between the disability of an employe seeking workmen's compensation benefits and a compensable injury, unequivocal medical evidence must be produced to establish that connection, and evidence which is less than positive or conjectural is insufficient. [379-80]
Argued September 14, 1979, before Judges CRUMLISH, JR., WILKINSON, JR. and CRAIG, sitting as a panel of three.
Appeal, No. 2501 C.D. 1978, from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Edward Zoltak v. Keystone Harmony Dairy, No. A-74996.
Petition with the Department of Labor and Industry for disability benefits. Benefits awarded. Employer appealed to the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board. Benefits denied. Petitioner appealed to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. Held: Affirmed.
Donald J. McCormick, with him Joseph B. Bagley, for petitioner.
Joseph F. Grochial, with him Roy F. Walters, Jr., and Fried, Kane, Walters Zuschlag, for respondents.
The Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board reversed a referee's award of benefits to Edward G. Zoltak. We affirm.
Zoltak applied for workmen's compensation benefits for an injury which allegedly resulted when he slipped January 11, 1977, on an ice ledge while delivering milk for his employer, Keystone-Harmony Dairy. The referee awarded benefits, finding:
5. The claimant was totally disabled from performing his regular duties since his injuries of January 11, 1977. The claimant's injuries consisted of traumatic arthritis with aggravation due to injuries which resulted in inflamation [sic] of his right knee.
The Board, in reversing, found evidence insufficient to establish the required causal connection between that alleged accident and the disability.
Zoltak's contention to the contrary is without merit. Where there is no obvious causal relationship between the existing disability and the alleged accident, unequivocal medical evidence, based not on mere possibilities, must be adduced to establish the nexus. Evidence less than positive or based on conjecture falls short of the plateau of legally competent evidence. Heffer v. GAF Corp., 29 Pa. Commw. 365, 370 A.2d 1254 (1977).
Zoltak's only medical witness, Dr. Ferguson, testified that Zoltak's disability was due to an injury incurred in July, 1976, that he was unaware of a January 11, 1977 injury, and that, moreover, the accident as described could not have caused the present disability.
The Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board may reverse the referee when a necessary finding of fact is not supported by substantial evidence. Universal Cyclops Steel Corp. v. Krawczynski, 9 Pa. Commw. 176, 305 A.2d 757 (1973).
AND NOW, this 20th day of November, 1979, the order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board denying benefits to Edward G. Zoltak is affirmed.