- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2001

A Washington Metropolitan AreaTransit Authority track repairmanwill continue receiving workers'compensation benefits despite dif-fering medical opinions aboutwhether his mood disorder wasreally caused by an electrical shockon the job.

The D.C. Court of Appeals ruledThursday that former Metro em-ployee Wayne Young's paranoia andmemory losses appear to resultfrom a mild shock he suffered June23, 1991, when he touched an ener-gized third rail on the Metrorailsystem. Doctors who testified forMetro said Mr. Young was faking.

The ruling clarifies the extent towhich psychiatric injuries can beused as a basis for workers' com-pensation claims.

Pamela Blake, an assistant pro-fessor of neurology for GeorgetownUniversity Hospital, says, "I candefinitely imagine that it wouldhappen because the nervous sys-tem is very sensitive to electricalshock. Brain injuries can causepersonality changes if there's in-jury to the frontal cortex. They'renot really treatable."

Two co-workers saw Mr. Youngtouch the third rail, which was sup-posed to have been shut off. He washospitalized for 2* days but doc-tors found no burns or other injur-ies on him. They suggested that hetake one week off work.

Afterward, Mr. Young did not re-turn to work. Metro paid him work-ers' compensation benefits for twomonths but then discontinuedthem.

Mr. Young filed a claim with theD.C. Department of EmploymentServices saying he should have thebenefits reinstated. He said theshock injured his brain and gavehim post-traumatic stress disorder.

A neurologist and a psychologisttestified for Mr. Young saying thathe did suffer a lingering injury. Apsychiatrist for Metro, however,said at the hearing that Mr. Young"was attempting to imitate thesymptoms he felt an individual whohad been electrocuted would expe-rience."

The hearing examiner agreedwith the Metro psychiatrist andsaid Mr. Young's benefits should bediscontinued. Mr. Young appealed.

During a new hearing, anotherpsychiatrist testified for Mr. Young,saying he suffered organic braindamage from the electrical shock.The disorder showed itself after thefirst hearing and was gettingworse, the psychiatrist said.

"The distractibility, the inabilityto focus, the need for repetition, thedifficulty with memory, all are sig-nificant to me in terms of diagnos-ing somebody as organic," testifiedBruce Smoller, a Chevy Chaseneuropsychiatrist. He also said Mr.Young's paranoia and inability toconcentrate would make it difficultfor him to hold a job, even if therewas an employer willing to toleratehis bizarre behavior.

The appeals court believed Dr.Smoller instead of the doctors forMetro.

"In concluding that Young wasnot faking, Dr. Smoller emphasizednot only his own experience in eval-uating subjects, but also and espe-cially the confirmation furnishedby Young's wife, who described herown detailed observations of Youngover an extended period of time,"the court said.

The appeals court awarded Mr.Young temporary total disabilitybenefits. He will be paid $390.06per week, which represents two-thirds of his salary with Metro, un-til he is able to return to work.

David Schloss, attorney for Mr.Young, said his client underwentthree years of treatment for his dis-order after the first hearing only tohear that he lost his initial claim forbenefits. "This guy was really putthrough the ringer," Mr. Schlosssaid.

His victory after appealing thecase showed that psychiatric injur-ies can be as disabling as physicalinjuries, he said.

"I think D.C. has been better thansome jurisdictions in recognizingmental health issues as disabling,"Mr. Schloss said. "Clearly in Mr.Young's case, that's exactly whathappened."

Alan Sundburg, attorney forMetro said, "My client and I willhave to review this matter to deter-mine whether there will be any-thing further with this."

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