On appeal from the Supreme Court.
For the appellant, Joseph C. Paul.
For the respondent, Skeffington, Walker & Corrigan.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
HEHER, J. Respondent, an employe of appellant, suffered personal injuries from an accident which arose out of and in the course of her employment. While sharpening safety razor blades, pieces of a broken blade, propelled from a machine employed in the sharpening process, struck her right eye and nose, and as a result the sight of the eye was destroyed. She also sustained an injury to the right arm and the little and ring fingers of the right hand, the nature and extent of which are not disclosed. She was awarded compensation for the total loss of the eye, as prescribed by paragraph 11 (s) of the Workmen's Compensation act, as amended (Pamph. L. 1928, p. 281), and ten per cent. of total permanent
disability for impairment due to neurosis. It is conceded that there was evidence to sustain the finding that this neurotic condition was the result of the accident, but appellant insists that it is a disability incident to the loss of the eye, and that compensation therefor is included in that prescribed by paragraph 11 for the loss of the member.
Respondent suffered an extensive horizontal laceration of the cornea, and a surgical operation was required. In addition, she sustained the stated injuries of the nose, the right arm and fingers of the right hand, with a consequent swelling of the arm. A medical examination disclosed some tremors and a marked general hyperreflexia and unsteadiness in station. She lost weight and was subject to fainting spells. The subjective symptoms were pains in her arms and right hand, weakness of the latter member, and headaches, vertigo, insomnia and somnambulism. She was "constantly apprehensive."
There is a substantial basis in the evidence for a finding that the physical injuries, other than the laceration of the eye, contributed to respondent's neurotic condition. Further, she had had marital difficulties, and her physician testified that as a result "she was a fertile ground for her psychoneurosis, and even though the trauma initiated and precipitated it, the marital condition would be operative." The physician, an expert neurologist, further testified that "trauma was unquestionably the exciting and precipitating cause (of the neurosis); no doubt about that;" and that "superimposed phycho-neurosis certainly adds to that disability (that resulting from loss of vision.)" He estimated the disability resulting from traumatic neurosis alone at fifteen to twenty per cent. of total. The deputy commissioner found that the accident was the exciting cause of the neurosis.
The question here presented is one of statutory construction, and must be resolved in favor of respondent. Whether a neurosis is of functional origin, or has an organic or structural basis, if it results from injury arising out of and in the course of the employment, and produces disability, it is compensable.
Paragraph 7 of section 2 of the Workmen's Compensation act (2 Cum. Supp. Comp. Stat., p. 3870) requires the employer to make "compensation for personal injuries" to an employe "by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment." Paragraph 11 of the act, as amended (Pamph. L. 1928, p. 281) provides (c) that for disability partial in character, but permanent in quality, the compensation shall be based upon the extent of such disability; (s) that for the loss of an eye, compensation shall be made as therein specified; and (w) that "in all lesser or other cases involving permanent loss, or where the usefulness of a member or any physical function is permanently impaired, * * * the duration of compensation shall bear such relation to the specific periods of time stated in the above schedule as the disabilities bear to those produced by the injuries named in the schedule."
The manifest legislative purpose was to provide compensation for disability resulting from personal injuries to an employe by accident arising out of and in the course of the employment. In jurisdictions having similar statutory provisions, neurosis is classified as a compensable injury, if disability follows. In re Hunnewell, 220 Mass. 351; 107 N.E. Rep. 934; Lee v. Employers' Liability Assurance Corp., 2 Mass. Workm. Comp. Com. 753; Ashland Limestone Co. v. Wright, 219 Ky. 691; 294 S.W. Rep. 159; Carter Oil Co. v. Gibson, 34 Wyo. 53; 241 Pac. Rep. 219; Rialto Lead and Zinc Co. v. State Ind. Com., 112 Okla. 101; 240 Pac. Rep. 96; Welchlin v. Fairmont Railway Motors, 180 Minn. 411; 230 N.W. Rep. 897; Rollnik v. Lankershim, 1 Cal. I.A.C. 45; Intorigne v. Smith & Cooley, 1 Conn. Comp. 228. A like rule obtains in England. Eaves v. Blaenclydach Colliery Co. (1909), 2 K.B. 73; 2 B.W.C.C. 329; Wall v. Steel, 8 B.W.C.C. 136; 112 L.T. Rep. (N.S.) 846; Morris v. Turford, 6 B.W.C.C. 606; ...