Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Dennis L. Landis v. Hershey Equipment Corp., No. A-85276.
Dennis L. Plant, Going & Wiker, for petitioner.
W. Jeffrey Sidebottom, Barley, Snyder, Cooper & Barber, for respondents.
Judges Rogers, MacPhail and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.
[ 91 Pa. Commw. Page 239]
Dennis Landis has appealed from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (board) which affirmed a referee's dismissal of his claim petition in which he had alleged disability by reason of a disease resulting from his employment.
From 1972 through 1975, the claimant serviced and installed poultry equipment in chicken houses for the Hershey Equipment Corporation. In November, 1975, he experienced distorted vision in his right eye. He has by his physician's description a small blind spot in the central portion of the visual field in the right eye. He retains peripheral vision in his right eye. His condition was diagnosed as presumed ocular histoplasmosis, an allergic reaction to the presence in the blood stream of histoplasmosis organisms. The organisms
[ 91 Pa. Commw. Page 240]
just mentioned are in fungus which grows in some soils which it is believed are fertilized by fowl droppings. The claimant quit his employment with Hershey Equipment upon learning these facts from his treating ophthalmologist.
Because presumed ocular histoplasmosis is not a disease specifically named as compensable in Section 108 of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act (Act),*fn1 the claimant had the burden under Section 108(n) of proving that he suffered from a disease:
(1) to which the claimant . . . [was] exposed by reason of his employment, and (2) which . . . [was] causally related to the industry or occupation [in which he worked], and (3) the incidence of which is substantially greater in that industry or occupation than in the general population.
The referee found that the claimant failed to prove any of these requirements. The board affirmed the referee's order on the ground that the medical testimony adduced by the claimant was equivocal on the point of whether the incidence of presumed ocular histoplasmosis is substantially greater in the poultry equipment industry or occupation than it is in the general population.
The claimant contends that the totality of the testimony of his medical expert was not equivocal and satisfied all of the three tests of Section 108(n). The claimant's expert, Dr. Paul Nase, an ophthamologist, was a well-qualified, careful and articulate witness. It is necessary to reproduce almost the whole of his testimony:
A. The presumptive diagnosis [of the claimant] was that [he] had presumed ocular
[ 91 Pa. Commw. Page 241]
histoplasmosis with macular inflammation from his ocular histoplasmosis.
A. Presumed ocular histoplasmosis is caused by a fungus that is probably transmitted by inhalation from contaminated soil. It gets into the lungs and subsequently into the bloodstream.
A. [The claimant] had all of the findings of presumed ocular histoplasmosis.
A. The ocular involvement with relationship to the fungus, since the fungus has never been isolated from patients who have the presumed ocular histoplasmosis syndrome, it is presumed that this is a type of sensitization and subsequent allergic reaction in the ocular tissue from histoplasmosis organisms which are elsewhere in the body.
A. It is felt that this is present in endemic areas, which include the major river valleys in this hemisphere and include the northern part of this country; that the fungus is present in the soil and probably fertilized by fowl which ...