Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in the case of Theodore Shubert v. C.M. American, No. A-87894.
Thomas P. Geer, for petitioner.
J. Michael Doherty, for respondent.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judge Colins, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Colins.
[ 110 Pa. Commw. Page 138]
Theodore Shubert (claimant) appeals an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) which affirmed a referee's decision denying his claim for compensation
[ 110 Pa. Commw. Page 139]
for a job-related mental disability, pursuant to Section 301(c) of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act*fn1 (Act), 77 P.S. § 411.
The claimant had been employed by C.M. American Industries (employer) for twenty-three years when he was arrested and charged with the theft of the employer's property, namely, certain steel items described as binders or ratchets. Claimant at all times insisted that the materials he admittedly placed in the trunk of his car on the night in question were scrap items intended merely to weight down his car to improve traction on an icy evening. He contended he had followed this practice with the employer's approval for some twenty years during inclement weather.
Claimant, who had a history of psychiatric problems, became despondent over the accusation and criminal charges,*fn2 as well as the termination of his long-standing employment and concomitant loss of employee benefits. Upon consultation with a psychiatrist shortly after his arrest, claimant was diagnosed as markedly suicidal, and was hospitalized immediately; he remained under a psychiatrist's care for some time thereafter.
Claimant filed a petition for workmen's compensation, in which he alleged that his mental illness resulted from both the employer's conduct in directing that he be arrested at work and the humiliation he suffered upon the filing of criminal charges. Claimant's petition was denied by the referee who found that claimant failed to demonstrate misconduct on the part of the employer, a work-related injury, or disability due to a work injury. Upon the Board's affirmance of the referee's decision, claimant's appeal to this Court followed.
[ 110 Pa. Commw. Page 140]
Work-related mental or emotional disability is an injury as defined by Section 301(c) of the Act, Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corp. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Fisher), 91 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 480, 498 A.2d 3 (1985), and may be compensable if such illness arises in the course of employment and is related thereto. Evans v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Anchor Hocking Corp.), 87 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 436, 487 A.2d 477 (1985). Where the causal connection between the injury and the employment is not obvious, unequivocal medical testimony is required to establish ...