Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Daniel W. Scott v. Wilkes-Barre City Bureau of Fire, No. A-75820.
Ralph J. Johnston, Jr., with him James P. Harris, Jr., Harris and Johnston, for petitioner.
Martin J. Meyer, Mack & Meyer, for respondent, Daniel W. Scott.
Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Rogers and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Wilkinson, Jr.
[ 54 Pa. Commw. Page 231]
Petitioner, Wilkes-Barre City (City), appeals from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) affirming the referee's award of benefits for total disability beginning May 12, 1977 and continuing indefinitely thereafter under Section 108(o) of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act, Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, added by Section 1 of the Act of October 17, 1972, P.L. 930, as amended, 77 P.S. § 27.1(o).
Claimant was employed as a fireman by the City from October 6, 1950 until May 12, 1977, with the exception of a 16-month tour of duty with the United States Navy. He attended 40-50 fires per year and approximately 1,000 fires during his years of service for the City. It is undisputed that claimant was exposed to smoke, gases, and fumes throughout his entire career as a firefighter, and was hospitalized on two
[ 54 Pa. Commw. Page 232]
occasions for smoke inhalation. In addition, claimant was given oxygen or other treatment some 40 to 50 times at the scene of the fires for overexposure to heavy smoke. Claimant also served as a training officer and line chief in addition to his duties as a firefighter and as a line chief was required to work additional shifts during the summer months to fill in for vacationing firemen. On September 6, 1975, claimant suffered his first heart attack while at home after working 28 straight days during August without any time off. Claimant was hospitalized for approximately two weeks and subsequently returned to work as a firefighter and line chief in January of 1976 performing the same tasks he had done in the past. In March of 1977, the claimant was hospitalized for five days as a result of smoke inhalation and did not return to full employment until approximately May, 1, 1977. Claimant last worked on May 9, 1977, and suffered a second heart attack while at home on May 12, 1977.
Upon the claimant's subsequent application for benefits for total disability, the referee found that the claimant's heart attacks were a work-related injury suffered while in the course of his employment and precipitated by the hazards of his many years of firefighting. Total disability benefits were granted commencing May 12, 1977. The City appealed to the Board which affirmed the referee's decision. City appealed.
The sole issue on appeal is whether the claimant has presented unequivocal medical testimony that his employment caused his heart attacks and resulting disability. The City argues that the testimony given by claimant's treating physician was general testimony about the effects of firefighting on the heart muscle and therefore insufficient to satisfy claimant's burden of proof. While we agree with the City that certain portions of the medical testimony presented by the claimant could be construed to be equivocal in nature,
[ 54 Pa. Commw. Page 233]
a careful reading of the entire testimony convinces us that it was the treating physician's unequivocal opinion that the claimant's heart attacks were indeed a result of his employment. For that reason ...