No. 362 January Term, 1979, Appeal from the Order entered December 27, 1978, by the Commonwealth Court at No. 2402 C.D. 1977, reversing the Order of the Common Pleas Court of Centre County (No. 1977-1902)
Benjamin Costello, Kenneth J. Yablonski, Wilson H. Oldhouser, Lawrence R. Chaban, Washington, for appellant.
Sandra S. Christianson, Asst. Atty. Gen., Theodore Swan, Jenkintown, for appellee.
O'Brien, C. J., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, and Kauffman, JJ. Wilkinson, Justice, did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.
Appellant, George A. College, challenges the Commonwealth Court's reversal of an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County which had affirmed an award of benefits under The Pennsylvania Occupational Disease Act
("Act").*fn1 He contends that Section 301(i), a 1965 amendment to the Act,*fn2 was intended to extend occupational disease benefits to employees, like himself, whose exposure to the hazards of black lung disease preceded the effective date of the Act, but who subsequently became totally disabled. We agree, and, accordingly, reverse the order of the Commonwealth Court.*fn3
From 1922 until 1927, appellant was employed as a coal miner for the Six Mile Long Coal Company in Huntington County, Pennsylvania, and never again worked in the coal industry. On June 2, 1976, he became totally disabled from anthracosilicosis, also known as black lung disease, as a result of his exposure to dust in the coal mines almost fifty years earlier. Shortly thereafter, appellant filed a claim for occupational disease benefits against the Commonwealth, appellee here, and Referee Thomas B. Noonan awarded him benefits under Section 301(i) of the Act. The Commonwealth, which was solely liable to pay the award, appealed to the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board ("Board"), asserting that appellant's exposure to occupational disease hazards occurred entirely prior to October 1, 1939, the effective date of the Act, and that the referee therefore erred in awarding him compensation. The Board affirmed the award on July 7, 1977, and the Commonwealth appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County. On November 18, 1977, the Board's order was affirmed, and the Commonwealth then appealed to the Commonwealth Court. On December 27, 1978, the order of the Court of Common Pleas was reversed.*fn4 Appellant petitioned this Court for review,
and we granted allocatur on August 20, 1979.*fn5
Section 301(i) was enacted in 1965 to enable totally disabled victims of black lung disease to recover benefits under the Act without regard to any ...