Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in the case of George C. Sibrava v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., No. A-88170.
Edward Jaffee Abes, Edward Jaffee Abes & Associates, P.C., for petitioner.
Michael D. Sherman, Fried, Kane, Walters & Zuschlag, for respondents.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judge Colins, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by President Judge Crumlish, Jr.
[ 113 Pa. Commw. Page 287]
George Sibrava appeals a Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board order denying benefits based on a psychiatric disability. We affirm.
Sibrava, an airline load control employee for twenty years, was responsible for calculating and maintaining the proper weight and balance of aircraft prior to takeoff. He began to experience symptoms of nervousness and difficulty of concentration which culminated in a fainting spell as he arrived one day at work. After a two-week hospitalization, he returned to work at another position. However, upon resuming his former job duties, his symptoms recurred, and he required hospitalization again.
His condition was diagnosed as a depressive reaction, passive-aggressive personality with a secondary diagnosis of essential hypertension. The referee denied benefits, finding that Sibrava's psychiatric disability was a subjective reaction to a normal working condition. The Board affirmed.
Our scope of review is limited to determining whether there was an error of law or whether a finding of fact was unsupported by substantial evidence. Section 704 of the Administrative Agency Law, 2 Pa. C. S. § 704. Estate of McGovern v. State Employees' Retirement Board, 512 Pa. 377, 517 A.2d 523 (1986).
Sibrava initially challenges the strict standard of proof applied to psychiatric disability cases as established in Thomas v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 55 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 449, 423 A.2d 784 (1980). In Thomas, we noted the highly subjective nature of psychiatric injuries and required that "the occurrence
[ 113 Pa. Commw. Page 288]
of the injury and its cause must be adequately pinpointed." Id. at 455, 423 A.2d at 787 (emphasis added). Further, we declined to "hold that evidence of an employee's subjective reaction to being at work and being exposed to normal working conditions is an injury under the Act." Id. at 456, 423 A.2d at 788 (emphasis added). See also Hirschberg v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Department of Transportation), 81 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 579, 474 A.2d 82 (1984).
Sibrava contends that these additional evidentiary and substantive requirements are contrary to statutory requirements of compensability and legislative intent. He maintains that the advanced state of psychiatry alleviates the need for a heightened standard and points to other subjective symptoms such as pain where a higher standard is generally not applicable. Sibrava argues that, as referees gain familiarity with psychiatric ...