Peabody Coal Co. v. Hale, No. 83-2400

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore CUMMINGS, Chief Judge, FLAUM, Circuit Judge, and CAMPBELL; CUMMINGS
Citation771 F.2d 246
PartiesPEABODY COAL COMPANY and Old Republic Companies, Petitioners, v. Samuel HALE and Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, United States Department of Labor, Respondents.
Decision Date19 August 1985
Docket NumberNo. 83-2400

Page 246

771 F.2d 246
PEABODY COAL COMPANY and Old Republic Companies, Petitioners,
v.
Samuel HALE and Director, Office of Workers' Compensation
Programs, United States Department of Labor, Respondents.
No. 83-2400.
United States Court of Appeals,
Seventh Circuit.
Argued May 28, 1985.
Decided Aug. 19, 1985.

Mark E. Solomons, Kilcullen, Wilson & Kilcullen, Washington, D.C., for petitioners.

G. Patrick Murphy, Winter & Garrison, Marion, Ill., for respondents.

Before CUMMINGS, Chief Judge, FLAUM, Circuit Judge, and CAMPBELL, Senior District Judge. *

CUMMINGS, Chief Judge.

This is a petition for review of an Order of the Benefits Review Board, United States Department of Labor, which affirmed an administrative law judge's decision to award black lung benefits. Petitioner Peabody Coal Company challenges the Benefits Review Board Order solely on

Page 247

the ground that the administrative law judge (ALJ) failed to comply with the decisional requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), specifically 5 U.S.C. Sec. 557(c)(3)(A). We agree that the ALJ did not adequately explain his findings and conclusions in reaching a decision and remand this case to him for further consideration.
I

On May 28, 1976, Samuel Hale, the claimant, filed a claim for federal black lung benefits and on May 14, 1979, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a Notice of Initial Finding indicating that he was eligible for benefits under the Federal Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. Sec. 901, et seq. Peabody Coal Company (Peabody), the responsible coal mine operator, challenged the approval of benefits and the matter was brought before Administrative Law Judge James R. Howard for a formal hearing. On November 17, 1980, Judge Howard issued a decision and order awarding benefits to Hale. The ALJ ruled that Hale was entitled to the "interim presumption" that he is totally disabled due to pneumoconiosis because the claimant had more than ten years of coal-mine employment and because of the submission of certain qualifying ventilatory studies and physicians' opinions (Petitioners' App. A6-A7). See 20 C.F.R. Sec. 727.203(a)(2), (4). 1 The judge also concluded that the coal-mine employer had not rebutted the presumption pursuant to any of the four methods available to it under 20 C.F.R. Sec. 727.203(b)(1)-(4). 2

The Benefits Review Board affirmed the ALJ's decision on May 31, 1983, but one administrative appeals judge dissented on the basis that the ALJ's opinion failed to comport with the requirement of the APA embodied in 5 U.S.C. Sec. 557(c)(3)(A) (App. A1-A4).

II

The sole issue in this case is whether the ALJ's decision and order of November 17, 1980, awarding benefits to the claimant, comports with the requirements of Sec. 8(c)(3)(A) of the APA, 5 U.S.C.

Page 248

Sec. 557(c)(3)(A). 3 The Section provides in pertinent part that:

All decisions, including initial, recommended, and tentative decisions, are a part of the record and shall include a statement of--

(A) findings and conclusions, and the reasons or basis therefor, on all the material issues of fact, law, or discretion presented on the record

* * *

* * *

5 U.S.C. Sec. 557(c)(3)(A). Appellee Hale does not contest the applicability of the APA requirement to a formal hearing before an ALJ on a claim under the Black Lung Benefits Act (Appellees' Br. 6) and the Benefits Review Board has held on numerous occasions that Sec. 557(c)(3)(A), supra, does in fact apply in these circumstances. See, e.g., Rasel v. Bethlehem Mines Corp., 9 BRBS 252, 255-256 (1978); Whittington v. National Bank of Washington, 8 BRBS 235, 237 (1978). 4 We conclude that the ALJ failed to meet the standard set forth in Sec. 557(c)(3)(A) by failing to explain in any manner his conclusions or findings that no rebuttal evidence was presented by the employer and that the presumption afforded the claimant by 20 C.F.R. Sec. 727.203(a) was not rebutted. Hale is correct in pointing out that this Court will "uphold an agency's decision of less than ideal clarity if the agency's path may reasonably be discerned or if failure to explain every step in the reasoning process could have made no difference in the outcome." Markus v. Old Ben Coal Co., 712 F.2d 322, 327 (1983); see Bowman v. Transportation, Inc. v. Arkansas-Best Freight System, Inc., 419 U.S. 281, 285-286. Careful consideration of this case indicates that it would be inappropriate and a bad precedent for the future to apply the rule of Markus under these circumstances.

Page 249

Peabody attempted to rebut the interim presumption that the ALJ had afforded Hale by demonstrating that the claimant "does not * * * have pneumoconiosis" and that the "total disability * * * of the miner did not arise in whole or in part out of coal mine employment." 20 C.F.R. Sec. 727.203(b)(3) and (4). The principal evidence of rebuttal submitted by the Company was a physician's report and deposition of a Dr. William Getty, a board-certified specialist of internal medicine with a sub-specialty in pulmonary diseases. On July 30, 1979, Dr. Getty performed x-ray, pulmonary function and blood gas studies on Hale, conducted a full clinical examination, and took a history of the miner's complaints (Director's Exhibit 54). Following a review of the objective test reports he concluded that there was "no...

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15 practice notes
  • Hillibush v. U.S. Dept. of Labor, Benefits Review Bd., No. 88-3023
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • June 24, 1988
    ...is especially important, since the requirements of the statute are highly technical and factually based. See Peabody Coal Co. v. Hale, 771 F.2d 246, 249-50 (7th Cir.1985); see also Maxey v. Califano, 598 F.2d 874, 876 (4th Cir.1979) (in black lung cases, ALJ's unexplained conclusion as to t......
  • Freeman United Coal Min. Co. v. Office of Workers' Compensation Program, No. 92-1992
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • April 15, 1993
    ...production and of persuasion to the employer. Amax Coal Co. v. Director, OWCP, 772 F.2d 304, 305 (7th Cir.1985); Peabody Coal Co. v. Hale, 771 F.2d 246, 248 n. 2 (7th Cir.1985). But see Underhill v. Peabody Coal Co., 687 F.2d 217, 222 (7th Cir.1982) (holding, without extended discussion, th......
  • Jones v. Freeman United Coal Mining Co., BRB 10-0366 BLA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Black Lung Complaints
    • March 15, 2011
    ...issue of death causation, and has permissibly assigned less weight to the opinions of claimant's physicians. See Peabody Coal Co. v. Hale, 771 F.2d 246, 8 BLR 2-34 (7th Cir. 1985); Hall v. Director, OWCP, 12 BLR 1-80 (1988). The administrative law judge rationally exercised his discretion t......
  • Summers v. Freeman United Coal Min. Co., No. 93-1110
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • March 3, 1994
    ...claim for benefits. See 20 C.F.R. Sec. 718.202(a); 5 Freeman United Coal Mining Co., Page 1225 879 F.2d at 249; Peabody Coal Co. v. Hale, 771 F.2d 246, 249 (7th Cir.1985); Consolidation Coal Co., 741 F.2d at B. The Rebuttable Presumption--30 U.S.C. Sec. 921(c)(4) Mr. Summers contends in the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • Hillibush v. U.S. Dept. of Labor, Benefits Review Bd., No. 88-3023
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • June 24, 1988
    ...is especially important, since the requirements of the statute are highly technical and factually based. See Peabody Coal Co. v. Hale, 771 F.2d 246, 249-50 (7th Cir.1985); see also Maxey v. Califano, 598 F.2d 874, 876 (4th Cir.1979) (in black lung cases, ALJ's unexplained conclusion as to t......
  • Freeman United Coal Min. Co. v. Office of Workers' Compensation Program, No. 92-1992
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • April 15, 1993
    ...production and of persuasion to the employer. Amax Coal Co. v. Director, OWCP, 772 F.2d 304, 305 (7th Cir.1985); Peabody Coal Co. v. Hale, 771 F.2d 246, 248 n. 2 (7th Cir.1985). But see Underhill v. Peabody Coal Co., 687 F.2d 217, 222 (7th Cir.1982) (holding, without extended discussion, th......
  • Jones v. Freeman United Coal Mining Co., BRB 10-0366 BLA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Black Lung Complaints
    • March 15, 2011
    ...issue of death causation, and has permissibly assigned less weight to the opinions of claimant's physicians. See Peabody Coal Co. v. Hale, 771 F.2d 246, 8 BLR 2-34 (7th Cir. 1985); Hall v. Director, OWCP, 12 BLR 1-80 (1988). The administrative law judge rationally exercised his discretion t......
  • Summers v. Freeman United Coal Min. Co., No. 93-1110
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • March 3, 1994
    ...claim for benefits. See 20 C.F.R. Sec. 718.202(a); 5 Freeman United Coal Mining Co., Page 1225 879 F.2d at 249; Peabody Coal Co. v. Hale, 771 F.2d 246, 249 (7th Cir.1985); Consolidation Coal Co., 741 F.2d at B. The Rebuttable Presumption--30 U.S.C. Sec. 921(c)(4) Mr. Summers contends in the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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