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BETHLEHEM MINES CORPORATION v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (12/23/80)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: December 23, 1980.

BETHLEHEM MINES CORPORATION, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD AND JOHN STAVARSKI, RESPONDENTS

Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in the case of John F. Stavarski v. Bethlehem Mines Corporation, No. A-77532.

COUNSEL

William F. Henkel, with him Daniel A. Caldwell, Greenlee, Richman, Derrico & Posa, for petitioner.

Benjamin L. Costello, with him Kenneth J. Yablonski, for respondent.

Judges Blatt, Craig and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Craig

[ 55 Pa. Commw. Page 542]

Employer Bethlehem Mines Corporation appeals from a decision of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board which affirmed a referee's decision that Claimant John Stavarski was eligible to receive compensation under Section 108(e) of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act (Act), Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, added by Section 1 of the Act of October 17, 1972, P.L. 930, as amended, 77 P.S. ยง 27.1(e), because he was disabled by an occupational disease.

[ 55 Pa. Commw. Page 543]

The claimant had worked in the coal mining industry for more than thirty-five years. From approximately January 1959 until claimant's retirement on January 4, 1977, claimant was a roof bolter inside the coal mines. Thereafter claimant filed a claim petition alleging that he was totally and permanently disabled by reason of pneumoconiosis caused by his exposure to coal dust during his employment.

The referee resolved conflicting medical testimony in favor of the claimant and found claimant, as of January 15, 1977, to be totally disabled by coalworker's pneumoconiosis.

Here the employer asserts that substantial evidence to support a finding of disability is absent from the record because the doctors who testified that claimant's physical impairment prevents him from performing his duties as a roof bolter were unaware of the duties of the position. We cannot agree.

After examining the claimant, Dr. Macy I. Levine testified that the claimant was totally disabled, partly on the basis of the history given to Dr. Levine, indicating that the claimant, when working, had experienced difficulty carrying posts for any length of time because of shortness of breath. Although the claimant's own testimony included a comment that "not too much" physical exertion was involved in drilling holes in the mine roof, the referee could infer that the job of roof bolter was not confined to drilling holes, but involved other related activities.*fn1

The claimant is entitled to the benefit of the most favorable inferences deducible from the evidence, and questions of credibility are for the referee as fact-finder.

[ 55 Pa. Commw. Page 544]

    that the cause of claimant's disability is pneumoconiosis. The relative weight to be given to the respective testimony of medical experts is exclusively for the referee to determine, and the referee is not required to state his reason for accepting one medical opinion over another. The fact that the referee is inclined to believe one opinion over another is sufficient. City of Hazleton v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 35 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 477, 386 A.2d 1067 (1978).

Accordingly, we affirm the decision of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board.

Order

And Now, December 23, 1980, the order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, Docket No. A-77532, dated November 5, 1979, is affirmed, and judgment is entered in favor of claimant John Stavarski and against Bethlehem Mines Corporation, self-insured, in accordance with said order of the Board.

Disposition

Affirmed.


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