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COMBUSTION ENGINEERING v. WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (KARNACK) (08/25/82)

decided: August 25, 1982.

COMBUSTION ENGINEERING, PETITIONER
v.
WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (KARNACK), RESPONDENTS



Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Frank W. Karnack v. Combustion Engineering, No. A-79071.

COUNSEL

Joseph F. Grochmal, with him Noble R. Zuschlag, Fried, Kane, Walters & Zuschlag, for petitioner.

Richard G. Spagnolli, McArdle, Caroselli, Spagnoli & Beachler, for respondent, Frank V. Karnack.

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

Author: Williams

[ 68 Pa. Commw. Page 404]

Petitioner, Combustion Engineering, appeals from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) which affirmed a referee's decision awarding claimant disability benefits under Section 306(a) of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act (Act).*fn1 The referee found that claimant suffered from silicosis, an occupational disease set forth in Section 108(k) of the Act.*fn2

Claimant, Frank V. Karnack, was last employed as a foundry worker by Combustion Engineering. Throughout the course of his employment with Combustion, claimant was exposed to airborne respirable silica. In January, 1978, after forty-two years of service with Combustion, claimant left his job due to ill health.

In August, 1979, claimant filed a workmen's compensation petition alleging total disability due to silicosis, an occupational disease which he had contracted as a result of repeated and prolonged exposure to hazardous dust while in the employ of Combustion Engineering. Subsequent to the filing of the petition, a referee's hearing was held at which claimant offered into evidence the deposition of his examining physician, Dr. Michael E. Wald. Dr. Wald, a specialist in pulmonary disease, opined that claimant was totally and permanently disabled due to silicosis and that the disability resulted from claimant's contact with fibrogenic dust while laboring as a foundry

[ 68 Pa. Commw. Page 405]

    worker. Based on the medical testimony of claimant's physician, the referee awarded claimant total disability benefits. Claimant's employer appealed the referee's decision and the Board issued an order affirming the referee. This appeal followed.

Petitioner's sole contention on appeal is that claimant's medical testimony did not unequivocally establish the requisite causal connection between claimant's disability and his employment at petitioner's place of business. Specifically, petitioner asserts that while Dr. Wald recognized that claimant suffered from both cardiac and pulmonary diseases, the doctor failed to particularize which of those infirmities is the direct cause of claimant's present disability. It is petitioner's opinion that Dr. Wald's testimony simply establishes that claimant's respiratory problems were merely a contributing factor to his total disability. We disagree.

This Court, after thoroughly reviewing Dr. Wald's deposition, finds that the doctor's testimony clearly and unequivocally demonstrates that claimant's present disability is a direct result of his exposure to irritating dusts while in his work environs. It is true that Dr. Wald acknowledged that claimant suffers from a pre-existing heart condition. However, the doctor stated that, notwithstanding claimant's cardiac disease, the silicosis alone is totally disabling.

The doctor's testimony is not rendered equivocal by his recognition of claimant's pre-existing ailment. In order to establish the requisite causal connection in a workmen's compensation case, the expert witness must state that the resultant disability came from the cause alleged.*fn3 Lehigh Valley Manpower Program v. ...


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