Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Edmund Z. Hirschberg v. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, No. A-81980.
Charles E. Wasilefski, with him Thomas G. Paese, Foulkrod, Peters & Wasilefski, for petitioner.
John W. English, Jr., for respondents.
Judges Williams, Jr., Craig and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Williams, Jr.
[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 580]
Edmund Z. Hirschberg (claimant) appeals from a Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board order which affirmed a referee's denial of benefits because of claimant's failure to prove he sustained a compensable injury under Section 301(c) of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act (Act).*fn1
On March 3, 1980, claimant filed a claim petition against the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (employer or DOT) alleging he was totally disabled by stress resulting from his supervisors' harassment,
[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 581]
intimidation and discriminatory treatment. From July 1978 until his dismissal in January 1979 for unsatisfactory work performance, claimant was employed in DOT's Bureau of Advance Planning as a Planning Analyst III. Claimant, who has a history of chronic anxiety neurosis, asserts that his supervisors' mistreatment of him, whether actual or merely imagined, aggravated his pre-existing neurosis thus rendering him totally disabled.
The referee denied the claim finding that claimant currently suffers from a disabling anxiety neurosis that is not causally related to his employment because the supervisors never actually mistreated claimant. The board affirmed the referee's order, refusing to award benefits "on the basis of a [c]laimant's distorted perception of his employment situation."
Mental illness can be a compensable injury*fn2 if it arises in the course of employment and is related thereto. Kitchen v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Mesta Machine Company), 73 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 289, 458 A.2d 631 (1983). Claimant must prove, however, that the work situation exacerbated his pre-existing neurosis, thereby rendering him disabled from mental illness. See Wynn v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (DOT), 77 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 631, 466 A.2d 769 (1983). When, as here, there is no obvious causal relationship between a claimant's work and injury, unequivocal medical testimony is necessary to establish the causal connection. Kitchen. Because of the highly subjective
[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 582]
nature of mental injuries, an injury's occurrence and cause must be specifically delineated. Id. And, since claimant did not prevail below, our scope of review is limited to determining if the referee's factual findings are consistent with each other and with the conclusions of law ...