Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Raymond Robachinski v. Glen Nan, Inc., No. A-71178.
George A. Yavorek, for petitioner.
John R. Lenahan, Sr., with him Joseph A. Murphy, and Lenahan, Dempsey & Murphy, and James N. Diefenderfer, for respondents.
Benjamin L. Costello, for amicus curiae, United Mine Workers of America.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Mencer and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
This is an appeal by Raymond Robachinski (claimant) from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) which reversed a referee's decision awarding compensation for total disability caused by anthracosilicosis.
The claimant was employed in the anthracite mining industry for a period of 28 years. For the last 22 months of this period, he was employed by Glen Nan, Inc., his last day of work being October 12, 1973. On October 17, 1973, he filed a claim petition pursuant to The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act*fn1 (Act) which alleged that he had become totally and permanently disabled because of anthracosilicosis on October 13, 1973. A referee subsequently disallowed the claim and the Board affirmed the referee's decision, dismissing the appeal on October 24, 1974. No further appeal was taken from the Board's action on this claim.
The claimant filed another claim petition on August 15, 1975, again alleging that he had become totally and permanently disabled because of anthracosilicosis, but this time indicating that the date his disability began was August 13, 1975. After several hearings before the same referee who had denied the prior claim petition, the referee found that the claimant had become permanently and totally disabled from anthracosilicosis on August 13, 1975 because of the accumulated effect of all of his exposure to a silica hazard and awarded compensation. The Board reversed the referee upon appeal, concluding that the prior finding that the claimant was not disabled was res judicata and that it barred any subsequent petition averring disability from the same employment without any additional employment exposure. This appeal followed.
Section 427 of the Act, 77 P.S. § 876.1, provides that this Court's scope of review in workmen's compensation appeals is that defined in Section 44 of the Administrative Agency Law,*fn2 71 P.S. § 1710.44. Section 44
limits our scope of review here to a determination of whether or not an error of law was committed, constitutional rights were violated, or whether or not findings of fact were unsupported by substantial evidence. The sole issue presented here is whether or not the doctrine of res judicata applies to a claimant who has failed to prove that he was disabled due to anthracosilicosis on a prior claim petition and prevents that claimant from filing a ...