Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Edward Richey v. Pittron Company and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, No. A-70859.
Mary Ellen Krober, Assistant Attorney General, for appellant.
Robert C. Little, with him Burns, Manley & Little, and James N. Diefenderfer, for appellees.
Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Rogers and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
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Edward Richey, claimant, was awarded workmen's compensation benefits by the referee under the provisions
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of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act*fn1 (Act). The defendant-employer, Pittron Company, appealed the award to the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board which affirmed the compensation award and imposed seventy-five percent liability for the award upon the Commonwealth pursuant to Section 305.1 of the Act, 77 P.S. § 411.1, which provides that, for disability occurring between July 1, 1973 and June 30, 1974, from silicosis, anthraco-silicosis or coal-workers' pneumoconiosis as defined in Section 108(q) of the Act, the Commonwealth shall pay seventy-five percent of the compensation awarded.*fn2 Although the defendant-employer has not appealed from the Board's affirmance of the compensation award, the Commonwealth has appealed from the imposition of liability upon it pursuant to Section 305.1.
From 1936 to 1946 the claimant had been employed in the coal industry, and had been exposed to coal dust for this ten-year period. He then was employed for twenty-two years, from 1952 until 1974, with the defendant company or its predecessors in foundry operations which, as found by the referee, exposed him to a silica hazard and other noxious dusts and fumes peculiar to the foundry industry. The referee awarded benefits pursuant to Section 108(k) of the Act, 77 P.S. § 27.1(k), which provides that silicosis in any occupation
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involving direct contact with, handling of, or exposure to the dust of silicon dioxide is an occupational disease under the Act.
The only issue presented in this appeal is whether or not the Commonwealth has liability under Section 305.1 of the Act when an award of compensation is made under Section 108(k) of the Act. This is a question of first impression and, after reviewing the statutory provisions here involved, we believe that the Board committed an error of law in imposing liability upon the Commonwealth.
Section 108 of the Act was added by the Act of October 17, 1972, P.L. 930 (effective immediately), and subsection (k) thereof provided that the following ...