Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County in case of Edward C. Dydo v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and U.S. Bureau of Mines, No. 723, October Term, 1970.
Richard C. Witt, Special Assistant Attorney General, with him S. C. Vary, Assistant Attorney General, and J. Shane Creamer, Attorney General, for appellant, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Irving L. Bloom, with him Morrison F. Lewis, Jr., for appellee.
Judges Kramer, Mencer and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Kramer.
This is an appeal from an Opinion and Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, dated May 21, 1971, which reversed an Order of the Workmen's Compensation Board, and thereby reinstated the adjudication rendered by the Referee of the Board. The Referee had issued an adjudication in which Edward C. Dydo (Dydo) was awarded compensation for total and permanent disability from silicosis contracted as a result of Dydo's longtime exposure to silica hazards while employed in the coal industry from 1914 to July 1, 1967. The Referee found compensation due under the Pennsylvania Occupational Disease Act (Act), Act of June 21, 1939, P.L. 566, as amended, 77 P.S. § 1201, et seq.
Dydo had been employed as an underground coal miner by four different coal companies during the years 1914 to 1946. In May of 1946, he became a Civil Service employee of the United States Bureau of Mines (Bureau) in the capacity of a coal mine inspector. Dydo's employment as an inspector necessitated his entering mines in Pennsylvania on a regular basis for periods
up to thirty-two hours per week. He continued in this work for the Bureau until July 1, 1967. At the date of his termination of employment with the Bureau, he was sixty-five years of age. His testimony is that he retired as an inspector because he was "short-winded."
On July 6, 1967, Dydo was examined by a physician who concluded that the cause of his breathing problem was "pneumoconiosis." He was again examined on April 17, 1968, and December 6, 1968, both confirming the earlier diagnosis. On December 12, 1968, Dydo's physician, a Dr. Goldman, concluded: "It is felt that this patient is totally and permanently industrially incapacitated due to silicosis and pulmonary fibrosis and emphysema caused by exposure to coal and silica dust in all mines in which he worked rather than any one particular mine." The Board found that Dydo's occupational disability occurred during his employment as a federally employed coal mine inspector, and concluded that as a federal employee he was not entitled to state compensation benefits. The lower court concluded that the Federal Government falls within the definition of "employer" as used in the Act (77 P.S. § 1203), and awarded Dydo compensation for total and permanent disability.
The Commonwealth, in taking this appeal, presents one issue upon which this case turns. The crucial issue is whether Dydo as a full time employee of the United States Government, i.e., a mine inspector of the Bureau of Mines, working in an occupation intended to be covered by the Occupational Disease Act, 77 P.S. § 1201, comes within the purview and provisions of that Act. Dydo does not deny that he is entitled to the benefits of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act, Pub. L. 89-554, September 6, 1966, 80 Stat. 534, 5 U.S.C.A., 8101, et seq., which was intended to provide compensation benefits to Federal employees injured or diseased in the course of Federal employment.
In interpreting the provisions of the Act, 77 P.S. § 1201, the courts of this State have stated that because of the beneficial purpose intended by the Legislature the Act should be liberally interpreted in favor of the employee. See Herman v. Kandrat Coal Company, 205 Pa. Superior Ct. 117, 208 A.2d 51 (1965). In Section 103 of the Act, 77 P.S. § 1203, the term "employer" is defined as follows: "The term 'employer,' as used in this act, is declared to be synonymous with master, and to include natural persons, partnerships, joint-stock companies, corporations for profit, corporations not for profit, municipal corporations, the Commonwealth, ...