GARY D. FRIDLEY, Claimant Below, Petitioner
ALPHA NATURAL RESOURCES, Employer Below, Respondent
Appeal No. 2051517 (Claim No. 2014020358)
Gary D. Fridley, by John Shumate, his attorney, appeals the
decision of the West Virginia Workers' Compensation Board
of Review. Alpha Natural Resources, by H. Tony Stroud, its
attorney, filed a timely response.
issue on appeal is whether Mr. Fridley is entitled to
benefits for occupational pneumoconiosis. On July 11, 2014,
the claims administrator granted a 0% permanent partial
disability award. The Office of Judges affirmed the claims
administrator's award in its August 3, 2016, Order. The
Order was affirmed by the Board of Review on December 27,
2016. The Court has carefully reviewed the records, written
arguments, and appendices contained in the briefs, and the
case is mature for consideration.
Court has considered the parties' briefs and the record
on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are adequately
presented, and the decisional process would not be
significantly aided by oral argument. Upon consideration of
the standard of review, the briefs, and the record presented,
the Court finds no substantial question of law and no
prejudicial error. For these reasons, a memorandum decision
is appropriate under Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate
Fridley, a coal miner, filed a physician's report of
occupational pneumoconiosis signed by A. Mirza, M.D., on
December 11, 2013. Dr. Mirza diagnosed Mr. Fridley with
occupational pneumoconiosis. The claims administrator
referred the claim to the Occupational Pneumoconiosis Board
on January 13, 2014. On May 15, 2014, the Occupational
Pneumoconiosis Board reviewed the record and was unable to
make a diagnosis of occupational pneumoconiosis. Chest x-rays
showed insufficient pleural or parenchymal changes to
establish a diagnosis of occupational pneumoconiosis.
Pulmonary testing, including diffusion and blood gas studies,
was within normal limits.
11, 2014, the claims administrator granted a 0% permanent
partial disability award based on the Occupational
Pneumoconiosis Board's opinion finding no evidence of
pulmonary impairment and lack of diagnosis of occupational
pneumoconiosis. On November 3, 2013, Afzal Ahmed, M.D.,
prepared a report stating that he read an October 21, 2013,
chest x-ray as positive for occupational pneumoconiosis.
Charles Porterfield, D.O., performed arterial blood gas
analysis and prepared a report on April 21, 2015. The
analysis supported a finding of 10% permanent partial
impairment. An arterial blood gas study was performed at the
Occupational Lung Center on October 30, 2015. The testing was
within normal limits and resulted in no impairment.
hearing was held before the Occupational Pneumoconiosis Board
on June 15, 2016. The Board members reviewed chest x-rays and
could not make a diagnosis of occupational pneumoconiosis.
After review of the blood gas studies, the Board opined that
Mr. Fridley had no impairment of pulmonary function related
to occupational pneumoconiosis. Mr. Fridley's previous
diagnosis of sarcoidosis could have an impact on his
pulmonary functioning as sarcoidosis is a disease of the
lungs that can have interstitial markings and effect
breathing. However, Mr. Fridley's breathing was normal
and his oxygenation appeared to be normal as well.
August 3, 2016, the Office of Judges affirmed the claims
administrator's July 11, 2014, award of 0% permanent
partial disability. It noted Mr. Fridley was sixty years old
with a thirty-five year history of dust exposure. It also
noted that Dr. Porterfield supported a finding of 10%
permanent partial disability based on the April 21, 2015,
arterial blood gas study. However, the Office of Judges noted
a later study performed at the Occupational Lung Center on
October 30, 2015, was within normal limits and resulted in no
impairment. Moreover, the Occupational Pneumoconiosis Board
could not make a diagnosis of occupational pneumoconiosis and
opined Mr. Fridley had no impairment of pulmonary function
related to occupational pneumoconiosis. The Office of Judges
found that the Occupational Pneumoconiosis Board's
testimony was credible and was uncontradicted by any other
medical evidence. Its opinion was supported by a
preponderance of the evidence. Therefore, the Office of
Judges concluded that a preponderance of the evidence failed
to demonstrate Mr. Fridley had sustained pulmonary functional
impairment attributable to occupational pneumoconiosis.
Board of Review affirmed Order of the Office of Judges on
December 27, 2016. After review, we affirm the Board of
Review. Substantial deference is afforded to the findings of
the Occupational Pneumoconiosis Board which found no evidence
of occupational pneumoconiosis. Moreover, it found that Mr.
Fridley's pulmonary function improved according to the
arterial blood gas studies. The Board of Review's
reliance on the Occupational Pneumoconiosis Board's
opinion was not misplaced.
foregoing reasons, we find that the decision of the Board of
Review is not in clear violation of any constitutional or
statutory provision, nor is it clearly the result of
erroneous conclusions of law, nor is it based upon a material
misstatement or mischaracterization of the evidentiary
record. Therefore, the decision of the Board of Review is
CONCURRED IN BY: Chief Justice Allen H. Loughry II Justice
Robin J. Davis Justice Margaret L. Workman Justice Menis ...