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CATHERINE M. BLEY v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (03/16/79)

decided: March 16, 1979.

CATHERINE M. BLEY, WIDOW OF WALTER LEROY BLEY, DECEASED, APPELLANT,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND INDUSTRY



No. 527 January Term, 1977, Appeal by Allowance from Order of Commonwealth Court of January 27, 1977 NO. 1848 C.D. 1975, per Genevieve Blatt, J.

COUNSEL

Richard C. Tinucci, Media, Cronin, Emuryan & Roger D. Michael Emuryan, Folsom, for appellant.

Mary Ellen Krober, Asst. Atty. Gen., Harrisburg, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and Roberts, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ. O'Brien, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. Roberts, J., filed a concurring opinion. Nix, J., filed a concurring opinion in which Manderino, J., joins. Eagen, C. J., concurred in the result.

Author: Larsen

[ 484 Pa. Page 367]

OPINION

On April 22, 1971, appellant's husband, a voluntary fireman in the Collingdale Fire Company for over twelve years, responded with other members of said fire company to a fire. While fighting this fire, appellant's husband collapsed and he subsequently was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital. The cause of death was a coronary occlusion brought on by exposure to fire and by the excitement and extreme exertion of fighting a fire.

Appellant filed a claim for benefits for herself as surviving widow and her four children under The Pennsylvania Occupational Disease Act, Act of June 21, 1939, P.L. 566, No. 284, § 101 et seq., as amended, 77 P.S. § 1201 et seq. (1978-79 Supp.) (hereinafter referred to as "the Act"), alleging that her husband's death was caused by an "occupational disease". Following a hearing, a referee awarded the requested compensation which award was affirmed by the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board. The Delaware County Court of Common Pleas affirmed the Board's decision and upon further appeal, the Commonwealth Court reversed the Court of Common Pleas' decision, holding that volunteer firemen are not entitled to compensation under the Act. Commonwealth v. Bley, 28 Pa. Commw. 342, 368 A.2d 872 (1977). We reverse. Volunteer firemen are entitled to compensation under the Act.

In construing a statute, we are governed by the Statutory Construction Act of 1972, Act of December 6, 1972, No. 290, § 3 et seq., 1 Pa.C.S.A. 1501 et seq. (1978-79 Supp.) which provides, among other things, that "the object of all interpretation and construction of statutes is to ascertain and effectuate the intention of the General Assembly." § 1921(a); "When the words of a statute are clear and free from all ambiguity, the letter of it is not to be disregarded under the pretext of pursuing its spirit." § 1921(b); and section 1921(c) provides that if "the words of the statute are not explicit, the intention of the General Assembly may be

[ 484 Pa. Page 368]

    ascertained by considering, among other matters: . . . (3) The mischief to be remedied . . ." and "(5) The former law, if any, including other statutes upon the same or similar subjects."

The relevant sections of the Pennsylvania Occupational Disease Act (the Act) are Sections 1201 and 1208(o).

Section 1201 provides that the Act "shall apply to disabilities and deaths caused by occupational disease as defined in this act, resulting from employment within this Commonwealth, irrespective of the place where the contract of hiring was made, renewed, or extended, and shall not apply to any such ...


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