Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Lawrence V. Perlman, Deceased; Marla, Widow of University of Pittsburgh, No. A-75077.
Leonard P. Kane, Jr., with him, Fried, Kane, Walters & Zuschlag, for petitioners.
Jerome M. Libenson, with him, Baskin & Sears, for respondents.
Judges Blatt, DiSalle and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr., Rogers, Blatt, MacPhail and Williams, Jr. Judges Mencer and Craig did not participate. Opinion by Judge Blatt. Judge MacPhail dissents.
[ 49 Pa. Commw. Page 348]
The University of Pittsburgh (employer) and its insurer appeal from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) which affirmed a referee's decision awarding benefits to Marla Perlman (claimant) for the death of her husband (decedent).
The decedent, a medical doctor, was employed as the director of the employer's Falk Clinic, as a coordinator of its ambulatory health care program, and as a professor of internal medicine. The record appears to indicate that the pressures of his extensive responsibilities and the frustration at his inability to obtain the necessary support and cooperation of the various departments with which he dealt, ultimately
[ 49 Pa. Commw. Page 349]
led to his feeling that he was failing in his job and to a fear that he would be discharged and his reputation ruined. When he began to show obvious signs of serious mental stress he sought the help of a psychiatrist, Paul Conrad, M.D., and, when his superiors became aware of the situation, he was placed on an indefinite leave of absence with full pay. He committed suicide five days later.
The claimant filed for workmen's compensation benefits, and the referee concluded that the death was the result of an injury within the meaning of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act (Act).*fn1 He, therefore, upheld her claim, but the Board set the award aside and remanded the case for the appointment and testimony of an impartial medical expert. The referee then appointed a psychiatrist, Herbert E. Thomas, M.D., who gave testimony consistent with that previously given by Dr. Conrad and the referee then made the following crucial findings of fact:
SEVENTH: Dr. Paul Conrad testified that the deceased was suffering from a psychotic depressive reaction which was caused by the impossible situation found in his work. This condition was first diagnosed on April 1, 1975.
ELEVENTH: Dr. Conrad stated, it is found as a fact by the Referee, that the psychotic depressive reaction caused by the working conditions was a state of mind of the deceased when he committed suicide; and he was suffering from such a state of anxiety that he ...