Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, in case of Albert J. Morack v. Textron, Inc., -- Townsend Co., No. A-87247.
Dominic D. Salvatori, for petitioner.
William F. Goodrich, with him, James A. Bosakowski, Dixon & Goodrich, P.C., for respondent, Albert J. Morack.
Judges MacPhail, Doyle and Barry, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Barry.
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Textron, Inc., -- Townsend Co., (employer) appeals from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) which adopted and affirmed a referee's decision to grant benefits to claimant, Albert Morack, under Section 301(e) of the Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act, Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, added by the Act of October 17, 1972, P.L. 930, 77 P.S. § 413.
Claimant was employed as an electroplater which involves the cleaning and polishing of ferrous and nonferrous wire products. On October 7, 1977, in the course of his employment, claimant was drying rivets in a pit when he was pinned in the pit by a hopper. He sustained injuries consisting of a fractured lumbar vertebra, strained right knee and multiple bruises and abrasions. He was awarded workmen's compensation benefits which were not contested. The parties agreed to suspend benefits on May 1, 1978. On that date, claimant returned to work as an electroplater wearing a back brace. Claimant sustained various injuries on four different occasions between 1978 and March of 1982. These injuries included injuries sustained from a fall as well as acid burns and a slight reinjury to his back. The acid burns were the result of the splashing of various chemicals which claimant used to perform his responsibilities. In April of 1982, claimant was assigned to work as a bright polish wet barrel operator which involved cleaning, polishing and degreasing ferrous and nonferrous
[ 105 Pa. Commw. Page 275]
plated and non-plated wire products. On April 24, 1982, claimant reinjured his back performing these duties when a hoist cable snapped and caused him to fall backward. He was treated and released for light duty work. On August 20, 1982, claimant was removed from light duty work and scheduled to return to work as a bright polish wet barrel operator on August 23, 1982. On the morning of August 23, 1982, claimant attempted suicide by ingesting a mixture of Drano plumbing liquid and water. He was hospitalized for one week for treatment of internal burns then discharged to the local Community Mental Health Center where he was diagnosed by Dr. Thomas M. Robb as having suffered from a major depressive episode. Claimant filed for workmen's compensation benefits alleging disability due to psychological injury. The referee found that claimant experienced a genuine fear of returning to work as a bright polish wet barrel operator and that this fear arose from claimant's October 7, 1977 injury, that this fear exacerbated an underlying pre-disposition on claimant's part to experience depressive episodes. He concluded that claimant sustained a recurrence of his October 7, 1977 disability and was entitled to a reinstatement of compensation for his psychological disability.*fn1
Our scope of review under Section 704 of the Administrative Agency Law, 2 Pa. C.S. § 704, requires that we affirm the adjudication of the Board unless we find that this adjudication is in violation of the constitutional rights of the employer, or is not in accordance with the law, or that any findings of fact are not supported by
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substantial evidence. Estate of McGovern v. State Employees' Retirement System, 512 Pa. 377, 517 A.2d 523 (1986). The burden of proof in a petition to reinstate benefits is on the claimant to establish that a disability has increased or recurred after the date of the prior award. Memorial Osteopathic Hospital v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 77 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 518, 466 A.2d 741 (1983).
Employer's major challenge to the referee's decision involves its contention that no unequivocal medical testimony was presented by claimant to show a causal relationship between claimant's depression and the original back injury sustained on October 7, 1977. Therefore, employer concludes, claimant's psychological injury could not be causally related to claimant's work. Employer points out that claimant sustained the October 7, 1977, original injury while working as a bright polish wet barrel operator but sustained the other less serious injuries as an electroplater, the job to which he was scheduled to return on August 23, 1980, and which scheduled transfer allegedly precipitated the suicide attempt. Thus, it contends that claimant was exposed to relatively normal working conditions. In ...