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Harman v. Republic Aviation Corp.

Court of Appeals of New York

Argued October 21, 1948. ; November 24, 1948, decided

No Number in Original

Opinion

 [*287]   [**785]  FULD, J. James Harman was one of two hundred employees working in the clean and well-ventilated tool and rig shop of the Republic Aviation Corporation. As foreman's assistant, he was required to read blueprints, lay out work, and, in general, keep the men supplied with tasks and examine and check what they did. His duties brought him in fairly close contact with all of the men and with Rodney Humphrey in particular. Those two, doing substantially the same sort of work, had benches but a few feet apart, conferred constantly on jobs that "would tie in together," shared tools, and, with everybody else, talked over the same telephone, on some days as often as five times, on others, not at all. In 1942, following a siege of pneumonia, Humphrey developed active pulmonary tuberculosis and shortly thereafter claimant also fell ill with it and suffered a disability. The Workmen's Compensation Board, having found that claimant contracted the disease from Humphrey, concluded that it was occupational and made an award in his favor. That determination [***6]  has been affirmed by a divided Appellate Division.

 [**786]  The evidence is ample to support the conclusion that claimant contracted the disease from Humphrey in the course of his employment. Accordingly, we need but consider the question whether ] a communicable disease - which the board acknowledges would include measles or even a common cold - contracted from a fellow employee, is to be deemed an "occupational disease" and compensable under the Workmen's Compensation Law. That question must be answered in the negative, the determination reversed. A contrary decision, approval of the award, would transform workmen's compensation into life and health insurance. Socially desirable and appealing as such a course may be, it is one to be initiated not by the courts but by the legislature.

] When the legislature, in 1920 (L. 1920, ch. 538), added article 2-A to the Workmen's Compensation Law, it granted coverage only for "occupational diseases," not, as it might have, for communicable diseases or for any and all diseases arising out of and in the course of employment. Clearly, the legislature did not make compensation benefits for diseases as inclusive or as broad as [***7]  those for accidental injuries. Thus, ] if a workman suffers an  [*288]  injury, he has but to show, to qualify for an award, that his injury arose "out of and in the course of employment" (§ 2, subd. 7). If, however, an employee is disabled by disease, he must go further and prove that his disablement was the result of an "occupational" disease (§ 3, subd. 2). We draw from this the obvious conclusion that the legislators envisaged and intended a coverage for diseases less comprehensive, less inclusive, than the coverage for injuries.

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298 N.Y. 285 *; 82 N.E.2d 785 **; 1948 N.Y. LEXIS 795 ***

In the Matter of the Claim of JAMES HARMAN, Respondent, against REPUBLIC AVIATION CORPORATION et al., Appellants. WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION BOARD, Respondent.

Prior History:  [***1]  Matter of Harman v. Republic Aviation Corp., 273 App. Div. 934, reversed.

APPEAL from an order of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the third judicial department, entered April 8, 1948, which affirmed, by a divided court, an award of the Workmen's Compensation Board made under the Workmen's Compensation Law.

Disposition: LOUGHRAN, Ch. J., LEWIS, CONWAY, DESMOND and DYE, JJ., concur.

Order reversed, etc.

CORE TERMS

disease, claimant, occupational disease, contracted, conditions, occupation, tuberculosis, telephone, hazard

Business & Corporate Compliance, Workers' Compensation & SSDI, Compensability, Occupational Diseases, Workers' Compensation & SSDI, Defenses, Fellow Servant Doctrine, Administrative Proceedings, Awards, General Overview, Evidence, Witnesses, Judicial Review, Course of Employment, Injuries, Accidental Injuries, Place & Time