Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Burnette Bowen v. Estep Electrical Contractors, No. A-69790.
Ronald E. Johnson, with him Landis & Black, for appellant.
Robert D. Kodak, with him Frederick W. Andrews, Knupp and Andrews, and James N. Diefenderfer, for appellees.
Judges Kramer, Rogers and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Judge Kramer did not participate. Opinion by Judge Blatt. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Mencer. President Judge Bowman joins in this dissent.
[ 26 Pa. Commw. Page 594]
This is an appeal from a decision and order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) reversing a referee's determination that Mr. Burnette
[ 26 Pa. Commw. Page 595]
Bowen (claimant) suffered a work-related heart attack which was compensable under Section 301(c) of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act*fn1 (Act). In denying benefits the Board concluded that the competent medical testimony presented by the claimant failed to establish a causal connection relating the claimant's heart attack to his work. This appeal by the claimant followed.
In our recent cases, we have said that for a claimant to recover workmen's compensation benefits after suffering a heart attack, he must show (1) that the heart attack arose in the course of employment, and (2) that it was causally connected with his work. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board v. Jeddo Highland Coal Company, 19 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 90, 338 A.2d 744 (1975); accord, Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board v. Ayres Philadelphia, Inc., 23 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 249, 351 A.2d 306 (1976); Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board v. Kanell Jewelers, Inc., 22 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 1, 347 A.2d 500 (1975). Here the record indicates that in the afternoon of June 26, 1973, Mr. Bowen, then a 49-year-old electrician employed by the Estep Electrical Contractors, was pulling electrical cable through conduits on the roof at one of his employer's job sites. In doing this admittedly strenuous work, he experienced chest pain which he first thought might have been heartburn or indigestion. He went to the dispensary for medication and returned to the site where one of his co-workers completed the job while the claimant, unable to continue working, looked on and gave oral assistance. After leaving work at the end of the day and after the pain persisted into the evening, he was taken to the hospital where his condition was diagnosed as a myocardial infarction (heart attack). There is little
[ 26 Pa. Commw. Page 596]
doubt, therefore, that the claimant's heart attack occurred in the course of his employment.
The claimant attempted to establish the causal relationship between his work activities of June 26, 1973 and the heart attack that he suffered that same afternoon, and it is well settled that where no obvious causal relationship exists it must be established by unequivocal medical testimony. See Columbus Service International v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 17 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 441, 333 A.2d 233 (1975); Dunlap v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 17 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 19, 330 A.2d 555 (1975). An examination of cases where the injury suffered was a heart attack, however, reveals that medical testimony need not be given in such cases with unqualified certainty. See Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board v. Ayres Philadelphia, Inc., supra; Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board v. Auto Express, Inc., 21 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 559, 346 A.2d 829 (1975); Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board v. Allied Chemical Corporation, 20 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 562, 342 A.2d 766 (1975). Here the claimant offered the testimony of his family physician, Dr. Robert Hollen, whose pertinent medical observations are contained in this excerpt from the record.
"A. I think it's possible that any extreme exertion in a person who has some coronary artery disease, that the exertion can bring on the myocardial infarction.
"I'll take judicial notice of that.
"BY MR. JOHNSON [claimant's ...