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UNORA v. GLEN ALDEN COAL COMPANY (03/25/54)

March 25, 1954

UNORA, APPELLANT,
v.
GLEN ALDEN COAL COMPANY



Appeals, Nos. 312 and 313, Jan. T., 1952, and Nos. 259 to 262, inclusive, Jan. T., 1953, from orders of Superior Court, Feb. T., 1952, Nos. 26 and 30, Nos. 27 and 31 and Nos. 28 and 32, reversing orders of Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, Oct. T., 1951, Nos. 130, 563 and 562, in cases of Casper Unora v. Glen Alden Coal Company and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; John Kalena v. Same and Frank Drozd v. Same. Orders reversed.

COUNSEL

David L. Ullman, with him Thomas L. Kennedy, Jr., for appellants.

C. A. Whitehouse, Assistant Counsel, with him Ralph H. Behney, Counsel, and Frank F. Truscott, Attorney General, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Franklin B. Gelder, with him J. H. Oliver, Gilbert S. McClintock and William J. Davis, for Glen Alden Coal Company, appellee.

Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Bell, Chidsey, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.

Author: Musmanno

[ 377 Pa. Page 9]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

The claimants for workmen's compensation in the three cases involved in this appeal from the Superior Court are coal miners afflicted with anthraco-silicosis, a malady listed in The Pennsylvania Occupational Disease Act*fn1 as compensable provided the disease totally disables the worker.

The Referees hearing the cases (individually) of the claimants Casper Unora, John Kalena and Frank Drozd, found, after taking the testimony of expert impartial physicians appointed by the Workmen's Compensation Board, that the claimants were totally disabled. The Glen Alden Coal Company and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as defendants, appealed to the Workmen's Compensation Board which, after affirming the award to Unora, referred that case to the Medical Board appointed under Section 420 (a) of the Act of June 21, 1939. It also referred, before passing on the appeal, the two other cases (Kalena and Drozd) to the same Medical Board.

This Board, made up of three physicians, reviewed the recorded medical testimony and declared that the claimants were only "partially disabled." The Workmen's Compensation Board, considering the cases now for the second time, announced that it was bound by

[ 377 Pa. Page 10]

    the findings of the Medical Board, and, therefore, handed down a new decision denying compensation to the claimants on the ground that they were not totally disabled.

The cases were appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County which reversed the decisions of the Workmen's Compensation Board and sent the cases back for further action. The defendants appealed to the Superior Court which, in its turn, reversed the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County. The claimants then asked for an allocatur from the Supreme Court. The allocatur was granted and the claimants entered this Court on a further extension of the legal pilgrimage they began some 6 and one-half years ago. The zig-zagging journey, however, is still not ended because, in view of the decision herein to be announced, the case must now go back again to the Workmen's Compensation Board.

Section 420 (a) of The Pennsylvania Occupational Disease Act provides*fn2 that when the Workmen's Compensation Board is required to review the Referee's findings on medical questions, the Board shall refer the case to the Medical Board "for determination of the medical facts." Paragraph (d) of Sec. 402 specifies that "The medical board shall have the power and its duty shall be to hear and determine controverted medical issues in cases arising under this act in accordance with the provisions of section 420." (Emphasis supplied.)

Learned counsel for the claimants have filed an able and exhaustive brief on the questions presented on appeal, the most vital ...


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