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RITA MATAKONIS v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (07/07/80)

decided: July 7, 1980.

RITA MATAKONIS, WIDOW OF LEONARD MATAKONIS, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD AND INTERSTATE MOTOR FREIGHT, RESPONDENTS



Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board on case of Rita Matakonis, widow of Leonard Matakonis, deceased v. Interstate Motor Freight, No. A-75806.

COUNSEL

Lester Krasno, for petitioner.

Joseph A. Lach, Lenahan, Dempsey & Piazza, for Interstate Motor Freight, respondent.

President Judge Crumlish and Judges Rogers and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by President Judge Crumlish.

Author: Crumlish

[ 52 Pa. Commw. Page 568]

The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board affirmed the referee's dismissal of a widow's fatal claim petition for compensation on the ground that her husband's death, while employed as a dispatcher for Interstate Motor Freight, was a natural progression of chronic, degenerative heart disease, complicated by an acute myocardial infarction, and quite unrelated to work activities or conditions.*fn1 We affirm.

Where the question in a workmen's compensation case is whether death was a product of a work-related

[ 52 Pa. Commw. Page 569]

    injury, a pre-existing pathology, or both, "the claimant must establish by unequivocal medical evidence that the decedent's work activities aggravated the pre-existing condition thereby contributing to his death." Modern Transfer v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 47 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 592, 597, 408 A.2d 900, 901 (1979). A claimant need not show the precise cause of death or even the degree to which death was work-related, but must establish, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that decedent's work activity or conditions either triggered or influenced his death by an aggravation of the pre-existing pathology. Modern Transfer v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, supra. Also see American Refrigerator Equipment Co. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 31 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 590, 377 A.2d 1007 (1977), and Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board v. Bowen, 26 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 593, 364 A.2d 1387 (1976).

The sole issue for resolution is this: whether the referee capriciously disregarded competent medical evidence by failing to establish a causal connection between decedent's work and his death.*fn2

Three qualified medical experts testified before the referee on the causation issue: Dr. Mohammed Safdar Ali, decedent's attending physician, testified by

[ 52 Pa. Commw. Page 570]

    deposition that Matakonis suffered from essential hypertension with high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, and an earlier "silent" infarction. To this, the referee found that he "spoke of no relationship whatever between decedent's chest pains of March 9, 1977, his myocardial infarction, his subsequent death, and his work or any complaints thereof." Dr. Mohammed Munir testified in response to a hypothetical question that the heart attack was "aggravated and precipitated by frustrations and the anger that he was experiencing at his job." The referee rejected this medical opinion because the hypothetical question did not include testimony that the decedent was tired and complained of pain before he left for work on the date of the incident. After reviewing the record and the same hypothetical ...


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