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PHILADELPHIA AND READING COAL AND IRON COMPANY MINERS' AND LABORERS' BENEFICIAL FUND (10/12/71)

decided: October 12, 1971.

PHILADELPHIA AND READING COAL AND IRON COMPANY MINERS' AND LABORERS' BENEFICIAL FUND


Appeals from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County, Jan. T., 1965, No. 145, in re the Miners' and Laborers' Beneficial Fund of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company.

COUNSEL

W. J. Krencewicz, with him Peter Krehel, for appellants.

Robert M. Zimmerman, with him Zimmerman, Lieberman & Derenzo, for appellees.

Bell, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy and Barbieri, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Justice Jones took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Roberts

[ 445 Pa. Page 66]

A dispute concerning disbursements of the Miners' and Laborers' Beneficial Fund of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company presents us with numerous issues, the principal ones being whether the fund is a beneficial association or trust fund; whether the benefits can include disability caused by anthracosilicosis; whether the fund has been correctly administered according to reasonable rules; and whether the

[ 445 Pa. Page 67]

    doctrine of cy pres should apply. We affirm the chancellor's decree confirming the "trustees" account and holding that the fund is a beneficial association which has been properly administered. Benefits have been duly extended to the occupational disease of anthracosilicosis, and the fund cannot be considered as a charity; hence cy pres has no relevance in the present litigation.

Little disagreement exists as to the pertinent factual background. On March 14, 1877, the company's board of directors adopted a resolution proposing the establishment of ". . . a scheme for the better protection and care of the Employees of the Company who may be injured or killed through accident in the discharge of their duty . . . ."*fn1

The plan was presented to the miners and laborers on March 17, 1877, and provided for payment of benefits to employees if they were contributors to the fund. The company donated $20,000 as an initial endowment. Membership in the association was voluntary and clerical and administrative expenses were to be borne by the company. Under the plan, to be entitled to benefits for injury, an employee had to furnish a ". . . certificate of a reputable physician that the disability is the result of an accidental injury."*fn2 The fund was to be administered by a board of trustees composed of the president of the company or its successors, the president judge of the Common Pleas Court of Schuylkill County, and a president of a local banking institution.

The fund's operation was suspended in 1915 with the enactment of workmen's compensation laws, but the assets were not liquidated or disbursed. At the employees'

[ 445 Pa. Page 68]

    request, the fund was reestablished on October 15, 1919, ". . . on the same basis as it was formerly operated prior to the discontinuance on December 31, 1915."*fn3

From time to time the plan was amended to provide for increases in contributions and benefits. Then on July 22, 1955, the trustees adopted a resolution again increasing the benefits and extending coverage to contributors actively employed by the company as of January 1, 1955, who suffered total disability due to anthracosilicosis. The resolution was submitted to a vote of the 1015 contributors then employed by the company. 850 ballots were returned, and the ...


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