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WILLIAM GRIESINGER v. WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (ATLANTIC RICHFIELD COMPANY) (01/24/86)

decided: January 24, 1986.

WILLIAM GRIESINGER, DECEASED, MARGARET F. GRIESINGER, WIDOW, PETITIONER
v.
WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (ATLANTIC RICHFIELD COMPANY), RESPONDENTS



Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of William Griesinger, Deceased, Margaret F., Widow v. Atlantic Richfield Company, No. A-85761.

COUNSEL

James Dunworth, for petitioner.

Patricia A. Mattern, with her, Lowell A. Reed, Jr., Rawle & Henderson, for respondent, Atlantic Richfield Company.

Judges Rogers and MacPhail, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.

Author: Rogers

[ 94 Pa. Commw. Page 333]

Margaret F. Griesinger (claimant), the widow of William Griesinger (decedent), has filed a petition for review of an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (board) overturning a referee's award of compensation on account of her husband's death. The Griesingers lived in Haverford, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb.

The decedent was employed as the Director of International Development by the Atlantic Richfield Company (employer). On November 1, 1972, he died

[ 94 Pa. Commw. Page 334]

    as the result of a coronary occlusion in New York City while on a business trip for his employer.

After hearings the referee awarded compensation based on his conclusion that the decedent died from an injury while in the course of his employment and that the injury was related to his employment. The employer appealed, and the board set aside the referee's order and remanded the matter to the referee because although the referee wrote that he did not rely upon certain hearsay testimony by the claimant concerning things told her by the decedent, the board concluded that the referee did consider them, and because the referee failed to find with sufficient specificity what caused the decedent's death. The board instructed the referee not to consider hearsay in making new findings and to make specific findings on causation.

On remand, the referee pertinently found that the decedent's employment included duties of a complex nature and involved dealings with foreign countries and corporations; that on October 30, 1972, the decedent told his supervisor of his intention to retire by January 1, 1973 and of his desire for a replacement to whom he could transfer his responsibilities; that on November 1, 1972, the decedent went to New York City by train for work-related meetings; that the decedent was found dead on a subway platform; and that the decedent died of occlusive coronary arteriosclerosis on November 1, 1972. The referee also found that the decedent had arteriosclerosis and had suffered a heart attack in 1955; and that during the two months preceding his death, the decedent was restless, irritable and tired, did not sleep regularly, and did not eat as much as before.

The referee further found as follows:

5. Decedent usually worked from his office in Philadelphia although duties took him out of

[ 94 Pa. Commw. Page 335]

    the Philadelphia area several times a year and on occasion to other countries.

13. At work, prior to 11/1/72, Decedent was a very self-controlled individual, pleasant and always an enjoyable person to have a conversation with. The Decedent discussed retirement with [his supervisor] on several occasions prior to 10/30/72. And in the course of his assignments in the past, Decedent mentioned to [his supervisor] the availability of having younger back-up people so they could continue to carry on the work that Decedent was engaged in. The whole record, demonstrates that the Decedent, in relation to his job, was a conscientious person, and was concerned about the effect his retirement would have on his employer. . . . He was concerned about whether his employer, the Defendant, would have someone carry on the work in which he was engaged in for the Defendant, after his retirement. The Decedent made known his plans for early retirement on several occasions from the time shortly after he was employed by Defendant until 10/30/72 and discussed the need for a back-up person. Nowhere in the Record does it appear that such a back-up man was in existence during the time the Decedent worked for Defendant. The fact that the Decedent was a conscientious employee of Defendant and was concerned about how his work would be carried on after his retirement, leads the Referee to infer as a fact that the Decedent was under pressure, anxiety and tension, in the progressing of his work prior to his retirement, and was a contributing factor to his death.

[ 94 Pa. Commw. Page 33614]

. The early arising of the claimant [sic] to leave for New York on 11/1/72, the trip to New York, the subway ride to PA Railroad Station which Decedent never accomplished, were contributing factors to Decedent's death.

16. The Referee finds as a fact that Decedent's conscientiousness and Decedent's request for back-up personnel who could carry on his duties after his retirement and Decedent's concern that the projects on which he was working would be properly carried out after his retirement (all of which are set forth in Finding of Fact #13) caused Decedent to be anxious about his work activities, caused Decedent to be under pressure in respect of his work and caused Decedent to be under tension in respect of his work activities and the Referee finds as a Fact that this anxiety, pressure and tension were work-related and the Referee finds as a fact that this work-related anxiety, pressure and tension were contributing factors to Decedent's death.

17. The Referee finds as a fact that the business trip to New York City on the date of death was a deviation from Decedent's usual routine and the Referee finds as a fact that this work-connected trip produced tension and anxiety and pressure, all of which were work-related and the Referee finds as a fact that this work-related tension, anxiety and pressure was a contributing factor to Decedent's death.

18. The Referee finds as a fact that Decedent was under tension and pressure and was anxious in view of his early retirement and his concern that the business affairs that he was working on would be properly processed to completion

[ 94 Pa. Commw. Page 337]

    after his retirement and the Referee finds as a fact that Decedent's restlessness and his insomnia and his level of irritability . . . were induced by his concern that the business matters that he was working on for his employer would be properly processed to completion upon his retirement and the Referee finds that that restlessness, insomnia and level of irritability were work-related and the Referee finds as a fact that the work-related restlessness, insomnia and level of irritability contributed to Decedent's death.

The referee's conclusions of law were that the decedent died of an injury in the course of his employment and that his death was related to his employment, and that he, the referee, did not consider the decedent's statements made to the claimant because they were hearsay.

The employer appealed to the board, which reversed the referee's order seemingly as not supported by the record evidence.

On appeal, the claimant principally contends that the referee's findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence. We agree.

The record evidence contains the claimant's testimony, which pertinently includes the following:

Q. [W]hat time did your husband leave when he went to work on the date of his death? What time did he leave the house?

A. [I]t was around 20 minutes after 6:00.

Q. On those days that he went to New York on business, what time did he leave the house? What time did he get up?

A. He would get up before 6:00 and he would leave the house quarter after, 20 after 6:00, because he took the 7:00 o'clock train from Thirtieth Street Station to New York.

[ 94 Pa. Commw. Page 338]

Q. [A]bout a month before the death [of your husband] . . . had you had discussions with him regarding retirement?

A. Yes.

Q. During that period of time did he display any signs of tension or anxiety or irritability which you ...


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