Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Board in case of Jean R. Sullivan v. Cleveland Wrecking Company.
Arnold Machles, for appellant.
John G. Jenemann, with him Joseph R. Thompson, and James N. Diefenderfer, for appellees.
Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer and Wilkinson, Jr., sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Kramer.
[ 22 Pa. Commw. Page 387]
This is an appeal by Jean R. Sullivan from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, dated October 17, 1974, which affirmed a referee's denial of benefits to Sullivan. The only issue is whether the referee's finding that appellant's husband, Lawrence Sullivan, intentionally killed himself was reached through a capricious disregard of competent evidence. We conclude that it was not and affirm the Board.
Lawrence Sullivan had a history of problem drinking and attendant violence, which resulted in the loss of his job in 1966. After securing a new job with the Cleveland Wrecking Company, Sullivan's problems continued and culminated in an altercation with fellow employes on November 12, 1966, at one of Cleveland's job sites. As a result of this altercation, which involved Sullivan's chasing one of his fellow employes with heavy machinery in an attempt to run him over, Sullivan was discharged by Cleveland.
At the same time Sullivan was having these employment problems at Cleveland, the appellant, along with Sullivan's three daughters, left the Sullivan home because
[ 22 Pa. Commw. Page 388]
of his excessive drinking and violent tendencies. Despite Sullivan's entreaties, his family never returned.
On December 14, 1966, Sullivan, apparently in a depressed mental state, hanged himself. The manner of death leaves no doubt that Sullivan's death was a suicide, and appellant does not contest this fact.
Section 301(a) of the Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act, Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, 77 P.S. § 431, provides that "no compensation shall be paid when the injury or death is intentionally self-inflicted, or is caused by the employe's violation of law, but the burden of proof of such fact shall be upon the employer." It has been held that if an employe kills himself "while possessed by an uncontrollable insane impulse or while in a delirium or frenzy, as a direct result of the accident without rational knowledge of the physical consequences of his act," the death is not intentionally self-inflicted within the meaning of the Act and benefits may be awarded if the other statutory requirements are satisfied. ...