Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of William A. McDonough v. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, No. A-83656.
Richard S. Campagna, for petitioner.
Paul J. Dufallo, Assistant Chief Counsel, for respondent, Department of Transportation.
Judges Rogers, MacPhail and Barry, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers. Judge MacPhail dissents.
William A. McDonough, a workmen's compensation claimant, has appealed from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board affirming the action of a referee denying him disability benefits for a chronic and acute anxiety reaction which he contended was the result of pressure and harassment suffered on the job. The issue is that of whether the claimant produced unequivocal medical evidence that his mental illness was the result of his employment.
The claimant began working at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation as a traffic control technician in 1962. He testified that from 1962 until 1970, his superior regularly singled him out for criticism in the presence of other persons at the work place. This caused him to develop a fear of going to work which in turn caused him to report late or to use vacation days to avoid going to work at all. The record shows that in 1970 the claimant collapsed while at his drafting table and was taken to the hospital where he was advised to seek psychiatric help.
The superior officer who allegedly mistreated the claimant left the Department of Transportation in 1970. Although the new supervisor did not behave toward the claimant in the same fashion as his predecessor, the claimant's negative feelings about his work and his tardiness continued. In September of 1978, the claimant consulted Dr. Charles R. Druffner to ascertain whether his problems had a physical cause. Dr. Druffner found none, and advised him to see a psychiatrist. The claimant began meeting with Dr. Anthony Galdieri, a clinical psychologist, on December 14, 1978. Six days later, he was taken to the hospital
from work after fainting and bruising his head when he stepped outside for some air because he began to feel anxious and short of breath. The claimant has not returned to work since this fall.
At the referee's hearing, the claimant testified to his work and medical experiences as we have related them. A former co-worker, John Culkin, corroborated the claimant's testimony as to his work experience, testifying that the superior officer during the years before 1970 would go out of his way to remonstrate the claimant and that the claimant "was a very likeable young man" but that during the course of his employment "he sort of got himself into a shell . . . [and] required a lot more pushing, shall I say, to get assignments under way and coming in late to work and days that he did not come in, he would call, either on sick leave or annual leave and it steadily increased, and although the work he did perform was good."
Dr. Galdieri testified that the claimant had no history of psychological problems prior to his employment with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation; that during his first appointment with the doctor, the claimant exhibited the symptoms which first manifested themselves in 1970 when the claimant collapsed at work; that the claimant had been totally disabled since January 17, 1979; and that his work experience was a substantial cause of his mental illness.
Dr. Galdieri diagnosed the claimant's illnesses as panic disorder associated with hyperventilation, anxiety disorder and dependent personality disorder. He described the symptoms as "massive amounts of anxiety, fear of losing his breath, dizziness, . . . hyperventilation, . . . confusion . . . [and] panic attacks . . . where ...