HARRISBURG – The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled that the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board was right to deny workers’ compensation benefits to a former Kinder Morgan Inc. based on its application of the “mental-mental” standard to the claimant’s mental disability claim, according to an opinion filed Nov. 14 by the Commonwealth Court.
Former Kinder Morgan employee Kenneth Frankiewicz said the board should have applied the “physical-mental” standard to his claim instead of the “mental-mental” standard.
However, in its ruling, the Commonwealth Court said “claimant did not establish that his mental injury resulted from a work-related, triggering physical stimulus.”
According to the opinion, Frankiewicz filed a claim on May 23, 2012, “alleging that he sustained an injury on April 20, 2012, in the nature of dizziness, headaches, shortness of breath, and a sinus infection from exposure to a diesel leak from a nearby Hess facility, while in the course and scope of his employment as a chemical operator with employer.”
Frankiewicz subsequently alleged that Kinder Morgan “violated the Workers’ Compensation Act by not paying for his emergency room treatment on the date of the injury and by not issuing a denial until six months after the incident,” the Nov. 14 opinion said.
According to the Commonwealth Court opinion, Frankiewicz’s doctor testified that several of the claimant’s medical issues could be “attributed to the exposure of fuel vapors over his 15-year career with employer and claimant’s history.”
Meanwhile, a Kinder Morgan medical expert testified that “he could not identify a work-related condition” as the cause of Frankiewicz’s medical issues and “could not identify claimant as being disabled as a result of his exposure from the April 20, 2012 incident, nor could he identify any specific medical treatment that was required as a result of his exposure.”
Kinder Morgan also provided a deposition in which a psychiatrist concluded that “claimant is suffering from pre-existing depression that was not aggravated by the work incident.” A third Kinder Morgan medical expert said “the most likely diagnosis for all of claimant’s symptoms was anxiety/depression in the context of symptom magnification and obstructive sleep apnea,” the Commonwealth Court opinion said.