For the prosecutor, Morgan R. Seiffert (Francis X. Kenneally, of counsel).
For the respondent, Joseph T. Karcher.
Before Justices Trenchard, Bodine and Heher.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
HEHER, J. The decisive inquiry in this action, instituted under the Workmen's Compensation act of 1911 (Pamph. L., pp. 134, 763), as amended, is whether the Middlesex Common Pleas erred, to the prejudice of prosecutor, in the admeasurement of the disability consequent upon a compensable injury concededly suffered by the respondent employe by an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment; and we resolve it in the negative.
On June 8th, 1929, respondent, while in prosecutor's service as a carpenter, fell a distance of approximately thirty feet as a result of the collapse of a scaffold upon which he was working. He has since been incapacitated. Severe physical injuries were followed by mental derangement requiring his commitment, on October 19th, 1934, to the state hospital for the insane at Trenton. He sustained a compression fracture of the fourth dorsal vertebra, a fracture of the posterior portion of the fifth lumbar vertebra, and fractures of the scaphoid bone and of the astragalus and is calcis of the right foot.
For these physical injuries, respondent was allowed, sometime in 1931, in an informal proceeding under the statute, compensation on the basis of forty per cent. of total permanent disability.
The instant petition, filed on March 14th, 1935, within the period limited by the statute, alleges a "head injury" productive of mental impairment, as well as the mentioned physical injuries, with a resultant "one hundred per cent. of total permanent disability," and prays for compensation accordingly. The deputy commissioner dismissed the petition. Finding insanity, he concluded it was not a consequent of the accident, and that full compensation had been made for the physical injuries suffered. The Pleas ruled that the mental disturbance was attributable to the accident; and there was a finding also of physical disability in addition to that "found at the first hearing." Respondent was given an additional award of thirty-five per cent. of total permanent disability.
There was evidence that the physical injuries alone had resulted in excess of ninety per cent. of total permanent incapacity. It was found necessary, in May, 1930, to effect a "fusion of four vertebrae" (by the grafting thereon of pieces of the victim's shin bone); and this, according to a medical specialist called as a witness by prosecutor, had eliminated "rotary motion" and "abolished the mobility of these vertebrae," with the consequence that -- so runs the expert testimony adduced on respondent's behalf -- "the patient's ability to lift or use the back in any of the usual functions was entirely lost."
But we find it unnecessary to measure the disability ensuing from the physical injuries alone. The psychosis adverted to is directly traceable to the accident. The proofs lead to the conclusion that, in all human likelihood, the injured employe suffered, by reason of the fall and the consequent injury to the spinal column, a concussion of the brain and an impairment of its substance that eventuated in derangement of function. The injured vertebrae house the spinal cord; and it is conceded that brain concussion was a probable consequence. One of the employer's medical experts, Dr. Blumberg, testified that the shock, communicated to the brain through the spinal cord as a result of the compressed fracture of the dorsal vertebra -- "one of the heaviest and strongest" -- would "in all probability" produce brain concussion, although he ...