Can An Employee's Disability Benefits Be Terminated If His Occupational Disease Is Cured and Irreversible ?

In Hebden v. Workmen's Compensation appeal Board (Bethenergy Mines, Inc.), 534 Pa. 327, 632 A.2d 1302 (1993), Hebden received partial disability benefits for occupational pulmonary lung disease as a result of working as a coal miner for over thirty years. Hebden's employer attempted to terminate his benefits, alleging that he no longer had the occupational disease. Our Supreme Court determined that in order to allow re-examination of the cause of an occupational disease, we must first determine whether the occupational disease is reversible. In Hebden, pulmonary lung disease was found to be irreversible. Such a finding then precluded his employer from trying to show that the disease had, in fact, been reversed. the Supreme Court stated that to permit employer to address why the disease had been reversed "would simply be allowing it to revisit the initial finding of Hebden's disability and, in a disguised way, to relitigate that issue. Sound principles of res judicata, collateral estoppel and issue preclusion bar such an attempt. Proof of a miracle cure must be left to theologians." Id. 534 Pa. at 332, 632 A.2d at 1305.