Appeal by plaintiff from the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Opinion and Award entered 19 February 1981. Heard in the Court of Appeals 3 February 1982.
Whichard, Judge. Judges Clark and Arnold concur.
The Industrial Commission concluded that plaintiff's decedent "did not suffer from disability as a result of an occupational disease within the meaning of the Workers' Compensation Act." We find that the findings of fact, which are supported by competent evidence, adequately support this conclusion; and we therefore affirm the denial of benefits.
The chief medical witness testified as follows: Decedent worked 48 years in cotton mills, smoked about one pack of cigarettes a day for forty years, and was totally disabled when he applied for benefits. The primary causes of decedent's disability were bronchitis and emphysema. (In his 1979 examination report the witness had listed his "first two impressions" as "1. pulmonary emphysema" and "2. chronic bronchitis.") Bronchitis is more commonly found among cotton mill workers than among members of the general public, but is not "peculiar to" cotton mill workers. It is impossible to distinguish the relative contributions of bronchitis and emphysema to decedent's disability. Exposure to cotton dust "probably" contributed to his disability, but cannot be said to have "caused" it. Smoking played a "large role" in his disability and "could or might" have caused either the bronchitis or the emphysema or both. The relative contributions of cotton dust and smoking to the bronchitis cannot be distinguished. Decedent had no classic history of "Monday morning" symptoms.
To obtain benefits plaintiff must show that (1) decedent suffered from an "occupational disease," that is, one "due to causes and conditions which are characteristic of and peculiar to a particular . . . occupation . . ., but excluding all ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is equally exposed outside of the employment," G.S. 97-53(13); and (2) this occupational disease
resulted in disability to work. Morrison v. Burlington Industries, 304 N.C. 1, 12, 282 S.E.2d 458, 466-67 (1981).
Plaintiff assigns error to the following findings and conclusion of the commission:
6. . . . [The doctor's] primary diagnosis or impression was pulmonary emphysema. . . .
7. . . . There were no symptoms referable to the work environment. . . .
8. Deceased was not disabled as a result of an occupational disease within the meaning of the Workers' Compensation Act . . . .
9. The primary cause of deceased becoming disabled was the disease emphysema, which is not characteristic of or peculiar to the textile industry. The primary cause of deceased's emphysema was ...