No. 85 March Term, 1978, Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania entered on February 15, 1978 at No. 861 April Term, 1977, affirming the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County entered on May 20, 1977 at No. G.D. 76-18907
Thomas J. Reinstadtler, Avrum Levicoff, Egler & Reinstadtler, Pittsburgh, for Koppers Co., Inc.
James R. Hartline, Thomson, Rhodes & Grigsby, Pittsburgh, for Allied Chemical Corp.
Richard F. Lerach, Pittsburgh, for U. S. Steel Co.
Herbert B. Conner, Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote, Pittsburgh, for Salem Corp.
John Alan Conte, Conway, David L. Lichtenstein, Pittsburgh, for Walter E. Bell, et ux.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ. Pomeroy, J., did not participate in the decision of this case.
Plaintiff, employees of United States Steel Corporation, filed suit on August 25, 1976, against appellants, Koppers Co., Inc., and Allied Chemical Corporation, and co-defendant Salem Corporation for personal injuries and/or wrongful deaths caused by occupational exposure to substances emitted by coke ovens at the premises of United States Steel Corporation. Appellant, Koppers, filed a third party complaint against appellee, United States Steel (USS) seeking contribution or indemnity. USS filed Preliminary Objections in the nature of a demurrer contending its joinder was precluded by the amended Section 303 of the Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act, Act of Dec. 5, 1974, P.L. 782, No. 263, § 6, 77 P.S. § 481(b) (Supp.1978-79). The Preliminary Objections dismissing appellee from the suit were sustained and that decision was affirmed per curiam, with one dissent, by the Superior Court. 253 Pa. Super. 590, 384 A.2d 980 (1978). We granted appellants' Petitions for Allowance of Appeal on June 2, 1978 and this appeal followed.
The Agreed Statement of the Record sets forth the following facts. At all times material to the initial suit, plaintiffs or their decedents were employed by appellee at its Clairton Coke works. Within the scope of their employment, plaintiffs had occasion to work in close proximity to coke ovens designed, constructed and installed by appellants. Plaintiffs were exposed to certain substances emitted from the coke ovens over an extended period of time and allegedly as a result developed lung cancer. The parties all agree that the injuries occurred before February 3, 1975.
Prior to February 5, 1975, Pennsylvania law permitted a third party sued by an injured employee to obtain contribution or indemnity from the employer to the extent of the latter's statutory compensation limits. Socha v. Metz, 385 Pa. 632, 123 A.2d 837 (1956); Maio v. Fahs, 339 Pa. 180, 14 A.2d 105 (1940). However, on February 5, 1975, an amendment to The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act, Act of Dec. 5, 1974, P.L. ...