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JOHN W. SNYDER v. WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (UNITED STATES STEEL CORPORATION) (06/10/86)

decided: June 10, 1986.

JOHN W. SNYDER, DECEASED, GERALDINE T. SNYDER, WIDOW, PETITIONER
v.
WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (UNITED STATES STEEL CORPORATION), RESPONDENTS



Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in the case of John W. Snyder, Deceased, Geraldine T. Snyder, Widow v. United States Steel Corporation, No. A-87775.

COUNSEL

Jay D. Glasser, Hollinshead and Mendelson, for petitioner.

Louis A. Raimond, with him, Robert C. Jones, for respondent, United States Steel Corporation.

Judges MacPhail, Doyle and Barry, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Barry.

Author: Barry

[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 63]

This appeal results from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board), which reversed the order of a referee assessing attorneys' fees for unreasonable contest against the employer, U.S. Steel Corporation (employer).

The present controversy was initiated when the claimant, Geraldine Snyder, filed a fatal claim petition

[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 64]

    alleging that her husband, an employee of U.S. Steel, had suffered a fatal heart attack due to the stress experienced in the course and scope of his employment as a motor inspector.*fn1 Employer in its answer denied, relevantly, that the deceased's fatal heart attack was due to the stress of working conditions, and hearings thereupon ensued before Referee Duane Darkins.

Following the initial hearings in January and March, 1983, a continuance was requested and granted for the purpose of securing medical testimony. Claimant thereafter submitted the deposition of the Allegheny County Coroner, Dr. Joshua A. Perper, who had reviewed the original autopsy report following the deceased's fatal heart attack. Dr. Perper was of the opinion that the claimant's heart attack was work related, and testified unequivocally to that effect.

After two more continuances, the employer on October 19, 1983, submitted as its medical evidence a medical report letter of Dr. Larry E. Hurwitz. Dr. Hurwitz, while concurring with Dr. Perper "that the most likely cause of death was a cardiac arrhythmia," stated that "it is impossible to state with any degree of medical certainty that there was a relationship between his sudden death and his occupational activities." This latter opinion followed the physician's noting of the deceased's severe arteriosclerotic occlusion, and the evidence that immediately before the heart attack the deceased had ingested caffeine, a "cardiac stimulant that can increase myocardial oxygen demands and/or cause a sudden acceleration of heart rhythm thus resulting in a cardiac arrhythmia."

[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 65]

The referee thereafter granted the petition, accepting the testimony of Dr. Perper that the fatal heart attack was caused by the claimant's employment and work activities. In addition, the referee directed the employer to pay the claimant's attorneys' fees, the employer "having shown no reasonable basis for contesting [the] claim." The Board reversed this portion of the referee's decision, concluding that a review of the record and the ...


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