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EDWARD JOHN O'HARA v. WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA HOSPITAL) (09/19/83)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: September 19, 1983.

EDWARD JOHN O'HARA, PETITIONER
v.
WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA HOSPITAL), RESPONDENTS

Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Edward John O'Hara v. Western Pennsylvania Hospital, No. A-80673.

COUNSEL

Alexander J. Pentecost, for petitioner.

Stuart W. Benson, III, for respondent, Western Pennsylvania Hospital.

Judges Williams, Jr., Craig and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Craig

[ 77 Pa. Commw. Page 223]

Edward J. O'Hara, a maintenance worker for Western Pennsylvania Hospital, appeals from an order by the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board reversing a referee's award of temporary total disability benefits to the claimant. We must decide if the claimant's evidence in support of the referee's finding of causation is competent, i.e., supported by unequivocal medical testimony.

On May 23, 1977, Mr. O'Hara, while lifting ice in the hospital coffee shop, felt a sharp pain in his groin; two days later, a board certified surgeon, Dr. Fred Berkowitz, examined the claimant and, noting a surgical scar, diagnosed the injury as the probable recurrence of a right inguinal hernia.

Based upon a hypothetical question describing the circumstances of Mr. O'Hara's injury, Dr. Berkowitz testified that "the lifting of the heavy objects might well have been a contributing factor" to the recurrence of the claimant's hernia. Although counsel for Mr. O'Hara then succeeded in eliciting a statement that the injury suffered was a contributing factor,*fn1 on cross-examination, Dr. Berkowitz substantially reaffirmed his initial testimony.*fn2

[ 77 Pa. Commw. Page 224]

On the basis of Dr. Berkowitz' testimony, the referee found that Mr. O'Hara suffered a compensable injury in the course of his employment. We disagree.

In Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 77 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 202, 465 A.2d 132 (1983), we recently reviewed the unequivocal medical testimony standard and reiterated the position that, where disability is not clearly the result of a work injury, expert medical testimony must establish that the claimant's condition, in the expert's professional opinion, did come from the work experience and that, for purposes of establishing causation, it is insufficient for the medical witness to testify that the claimant's condition might have been or probably was the result of the claimant's work.

Here, Dr. Berkowitz initially testified, and later reaffirmed his position on cross-examination, that the lifting of heavy objects might have or could have contributed to the recurrence of Mr. O'Hara's right inguinal hernia. Because Dr. Berkowitz' testimony is, at best, contradictory on the point of causation,*fn3 we affirm the order of the board.

[ 77 Pa. Commw. Page 225]

Order

Now, September 19, 1983, we affirm the order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, No. A-80673, entered December 24, 1981, denying benefits to Edward John O'Hara.

Disposition

Affirmed.


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