Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County in case of Louis Blank v. Penn Steel Castings Company and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, No. 81-07623.
Henry A. Riley, with him, Robert C. Geller, Jr., Chief, Legal Division, for appellant.
Kathleen DiLorenzo, with her, Nicholas J. Emper, Ronald Klimas and Kathleen Nagurny, for appellees.
Judges Williams, Jr., Doyle and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.
[ 85 Pa. Commw. Page 157]
Before this Court is an appeal by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from a decision and order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County holding the Commonwealth solely liable for disability benefits awarded to Louis S. Blank (Claimant). We reverse.
Claimant was employed by Penn Steel Castings Co. (Employer) for a period of thirty-four years ending in 1968. Subsequent to that employment, he worked as a security guard for the County of Delaware from March of 1971 until May of 1977 when a heart attack caused him to cease all work. While working for Employer, Penn Steel Castings Co., Claimant was exposed to a silica dust hazard. This exposure resulted in Claimant becoming totally and permanently disabled by silicosis on April 22, 1977. Claimant subsequently filed a petition for disability 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). Following a referee's hearing, the Claimant's petition was granted and the Commonwealth alone was directed to pay Claimant compensation at the rate of $100 per month commencing with his date of disability. The referee failed to make a finding, however, as to when the
[ 85 Pa. Commw. Page 158]
Claimant last worked in employment which exposed him to the silica hazard. The Commonwealth appealed to the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) and the Board affirmed the referee's decision but "amended" the referee's facts*fn1 to find that the Claimant's employment in a silica hazard industry ended in 1968 and affirmed the imposition of 100% liability on the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth appealed the Board's decision to the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County on the basis that Section 301(i) of the ODA should only impose 100% liability on the Commonwealth if the Claimant's last exposure was prior to December 1, 1965, the effective date of Act 335 of 1965, which act added Section 301(i) to the ODA; if after that date, the liability would be apportioned between the Commonwealth and the Employer, 40%-60%. The Court dismissed the appeal and affirmed the Board in an order dated November 24, 1982. The appeal to this Court followed.
The issue which confronts us has been dealt with in several conflicting decisions by various courts of common pleas, but is one of first impression with our Court. Specifically, we must resolve the question of whether the language of Section 301(i) of the ODA making the Commonwealth solely responsible for compensating sufferers from silicosis and other occupation related respiratory diseases, is, as asserted by the Commonwealth, applicable only to cases where the victims' last exposure was prior to December 1, 1965, or whether the cut-off date for the Commonwealth's sole liability is November 28, 1969, the date of a subsequent amendment.
Subsection (i) of Section 301 of the ODA was added to Section 301 by Section 4 of the Act of November
[ 85 Pa. Commw. Page 15910]
, 1965, P.L. 695, with an effective date of December 1, 1965. This ...