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BUCYRUS-ERIE COMPANY v. WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (HOLLAND (03/31/83)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: March 31, 1983.

BUCYRUS-ERIE COMPANY, PETITIONER
v.
WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (HOLLAND, W/O JAMES R., SR. AND COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA), RESPONDENTS

Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in the case of Betty L. Holland, widow of James R. Holland, Sr. v. Bucyrus-Erie Company, No. A-78602.

COUNSEL

William C. Hurtt, with him Robert F. Prorok, Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, for petitioner.

Edwin H. Beachler, McArdle, Caroselli, Spagnolli & Beachler, for respondents, Betty L. Holland w/o James R. Holland, Sr.

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

Author: Craig

[ 73 Pa. Commw. Page 202]

Bucyrus-Erie Company appeals from a Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board order affirming a referee's award of benefits to the widow of James R. Holland (claimant) under those sections of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act governing the occupational disease of silicosis.*fn1 We affirm.

Based on the testimony of three doctors,*fn2 the referee found that the claimant, who had worked for Bucyrus for thirty-four years in the steel foundry, contracted silicosis, a form of pneumoconiosis, as a result of his occupational exposure to silica dust.*fn3 Furthermore, one of the doctors*fn4 testified that the silicosis was

[ 73 Pa. Commw. Page 203]

"one of the causes" of the decedent's death, because it left him vulnerable to the medical complications which ultimately took his life.*fn5

Bucyrus alleges that, as a matter of law, a claimant must show that the occupational disease was, at the very least, the "most significant cause of death," not merely that it was "one cause of death," citing Crucible Steel, Inc. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 65 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 415, 442 A.2d 1199 (1982); Elliott v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 57 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 70, 425 A.2d 885 (1981) ("major contributing factor"); Refosco v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 57 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 74, 425 A.2d 887 (1981) ("substantial contributing factor"); Vargo v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 57 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 77, 425 A.2d 888 (1981) ("contributed in a substantial or significant manner").

Recently, however, our court, sitting en banc, in Evon v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 70 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 325, 453 A.2d 55 (1982), confronted what had been an indefinite standard for determining whether a claimant's death "resulted from" an occupational disease under the Act. There we expressly disapproved the declarations in Elliott, Refosco and Vargo that conditions which contribute to

[ 73 Pa. Commw. Page 204]

    death, but are not related to the immediate cause of death, are insufficient to support an award,*fn6 and said:

Neither section 301(c)(2) nor any other provision of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act requires that the death or disability be solely caused by the occupational disease, or that the occupational disease itself must be the active agency which terminates life or brings about disability. Likewise the statutes do not exclude death as compensable where the occupational disease is the contributory or accelerating cause. The important factor is that there shall be a causal relationship between the disease and the death or disability.

Id. at 328, 453 A.2d at 57.

In Evon, we cited Duquesne Light Co. v. Gurick, 46 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 150, 405 A.2d 1358 (1979), to indicate that a claimant has established a causal relationship where he demonstrates that the occupational disease was "a cause of death." Accord, Celotex Corp. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 70 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 407, 453 A.2d 373 (1982). Thus, the claimant here has met the legal standard to establish that his death resulted from the occupational disease.

Accordingly, we affirm the decision of the board.

Order

Now, March 31, 1983, the order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, No. A-78602, dated July 15, 1982, is affirmed.

Disposition

Affirmed.


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