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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. REUBEN G. OWENS (08/01/80)

decided: August 1, 1980.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT
v.
REUBEN G. OWENS, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County in case of Reuben G. Owens v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Bureau of Workers' Compensation, No. 1978-5846.

COUNSEL

Laurence W. Dague, Assistant Attorney General, with him, Sandra S. Christianson, Assistant Attorney General, for appellant.

Bruce F. McKenrick, with him Fremont J. McKenrick, McKenrick & McKenrick, for appellee.

Judges Mencer, Rogers and Williams, Jr., sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Mencer.

Author: Mencer

[ 53 Pa. Commw. Page 338]

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Commonwealth) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County which affirmed an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) granting benefits and interest to Reuben G. Owens (claimant) and held the Commonwealth liable for all costs and reasonable attorney's fees incurred by claimant in defending the Commonwealth's appeal from the Board's order. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

The facts are not disputed. Claimant filed a petition for compensation under Section 301(i) of The Pennsylvania Occupational Disease Act (ODA), Act of June 21, 1939, P.L. 566, as amended, 77 P.S. § 1401(i), alleging that he was totally disabled by anthracosilicosis as a result of exposure to a silica hazard. The referee agreed and awarded compensation. The referee also awarded interest on all accrued payments, pursuant to Section 410 of ODA, 77 P.S. § 1510. The

[ 53 Pa. Commw. Page 339]

Commonwealth appealed only the award of interest to the Board, which affirmed the referee. The Commonwealth appealed to the lower court, which affirmed the Board and, in addition, awarded claimant all costs and reasonable attorney's fees incurred by claimant in defending the Commonwealth's appeal from the Board's order. The Commonwealth then appealed here, claiming that both the award of interest and the imposition of costs and attorney's fees were improper.

On the interest issue, Section 410 of ODA provides:

Whenever any claim for compensation is presented to the board, and is finally adjudicated in favor of the claimant, the amounts of compensation . . . shall bear interest at the rate of six per centum. . . . (Emphasis added.)

The Commonwealth argues that it is not liable for interest payments unless there is express statutory authority*fn1 and contends that Section 410 applies only to "employers" and "employes" and does not include the Commonwealth. We disagree. Not only does the plain language of the statute include the Commonwealth, but also "employer" is defined in Section 103 of ODA, 77 P.S. § 1203, as follows:

The term 'employer,' as used in this act . . . include[s] natural persons, partnerships, joint-stock companies, corporations for profit, corporations not for profit, municipal corporations, the Commonwealth, and all ...


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