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HARASCAK v. DEPARTMENT HIGHWAYS (COMMONWEALTH (09/18/70)

decided: September 18, 1970.

HARASCAK
v.
DEPARTMENT OF HIGHWAYS (COMMONWEALTH, APPELLANT)



Appeals from orders of Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, Jan. T., 1970, Nos. 120 and 121, in cases of Michael Harascak v. Department of Highways and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Helen Harascak, Widow of Michael Harascak v. Same.

COUNSEL

Charles J. Bufalino, Jr., Special Assistant Attorney General, with him Clyde M. Hughes, Jr., Assistant Attorney General, and William C. Sennett, Attorney General, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Edmund J. McCullough, with him Eugene E. Duffy, for appellee.

Wright, P. J., Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, Hoffman, Spaulding, and Cercone, JJ. Opinion by Jacobs, J. Dissenting Opinion by Hoffman, J.

Author: Jacobs

[ 217 Pa. Super. Page 139]

The sole issue in this case is whether the Workmen's Compensation Board capriciously disregarded the evidence before it in denying compensation.

Michael Harascak worked in the anthracite mines from 1918 to 1952. From 1953 to September 1955 he was employed by the Pennsylvania Railroad. From September 1955 to April 12, 1963, he was employed by the Pennsylvania Department of Highways. He became totally disabled from anthracosilicosis on December 2, 1965, and died March 26, 1966, from a heart attack induced by his lung condition.

On February 17, 1966, Michael filed a claim for compensation under The Pennsylvania Occupational Disease Act. On June 2, 1966, his widow filed a fatal claim petition under the same act. The board found

[ 217 Pa. Super. Page 140]

    that Harascak was not exposed to the hazard of silicon dioxide during his employment by the Pennsylvania Department of Highways*fn1 and denied compensation.*fn2

Upon appeal to the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, that court found that Harascak was exposed to the hazard of silicon dioxide during the period of his employment by the Pennsylvania Department of Highways. It awarded compensation to the widow and directed the Commonwealth to pay $500 of the expenses of burying Harascak.

Whether or not Harascak was exposed to the hazard of silicon dioxide during his employment by the Department of Highways is a question of fact. It is the function of the Workmen's Compensation Board to decide all questions of fact and the function of the courts to decide the questions of law. Vorbnoff v. Mesta Machine Co., 286 Pa. 199, 207, 133 A. 256, 258 (1926). While courts do have the power to determine as a matter of law whether the board's findings of fact are supported by competent evidence, on appeal from a decision of the board by the party having the burden of proof, as ...


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