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24764 - Vivian Clade v. Champion Laboratories, et al.

Davis Adv. Sh. No. 8
S.E. 2d


THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA

In The Supreme Court

    Vivian Clade,         Petitioner,

        v.

    Champion Laboratories

    and Continental

    Insurance Company,         Respondents.

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF

APPEALS

Appeal From York County

Buford E. Grier, Special Circuit Court Judge

Opinion No. 24764

Heard December 17, 1997 - Filed-February 23, 1998

AFFIRMED AS MODIFIED

Bennett J. Schiller, III, of Atwater, Schiller &
Reeves, L.L.C., of Rock Hill, for petitioner.
Beverly A. Carroll, of Kennedy, Covington, Lobdell
& Hickman, L.L.P., of Rock Hill, for respondents.

        WALLER, A.J.: This Court granted certiorari to consider the

opinion of the Court of Appeals in Clade v. Champion Lab., Op. No. 96-

UP- 402 (S.C. Ct. App. filed November 14, 1996). We affirm as modified.

p. 3


CLADE v. CHAMPION LABORATORIES, ET AL.

        Petitioner drove a forklift in respondent Champion's shipping

department. On July 20, 1994, she was working the second shift.

According to her testimony, her back felt tired at the start of her shift, but

she felt no pain. Between 5:00 and 5:30 p.m., she began to feel pain

running down her back. The pain worsened, but petitioner finished her

shift that night.

        At work the next day, the pain returned, so petitioner reported her

injury to her supervisor, who sent her to the company doctor. The doctor

eventually sent petitioner to therapy and recommended she be put on light

duty. After a week or two of therapy, petitioner was referred to Dr. Scott

James who diagnosed petitioner as having lumbar strain with thoracic and

lumbar trigger points.

        Petitioner applied for workers' compensation benefits, alleging she

had a work related injury which manifested itself on July 20, 1994. Her

claim was denied by a single commissioner, and this decision was affirmed

by an appellate panel, the circuit court, and the Court of Appeals.

ISSUE

Is the commission's decision that petitioner's injury did not
arise out of her employment supported by substantial evidence?

DISCUSSION

        For an injury to be compensable, it must arise out of and in the

course of employment. S.C. Code Ann. ยง 42-1-160 (1985). The phrase

"arising out of" refers to the origin of the cause of the accident. Rodney v.

Michelin Tire Corp., 320 S.C. 515, 466 S.E.2d 357 (1996). "An injury

arises out of employment when there is apparent to the rational mind,

upon consideration of all the circumstances, a causal relationship between

the conditions under which the work is to be performed and the resulting

injury." Id. at 518, 466 S.E.2d at 358. The claimant has the burden of

proving facts that will bring the injury within the workers' compensation

law, and such award must not be based on surmise, conjecture or

speculation. Sola v. Sunny Slope Farms, 244 S.C. 6, 135 S.E.2d 321

(1964).

        A court may not substitute its judgment for that of an agency as to

the weight of the evidence on questions of fact unless the agency's findings

are clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative and substantial

p. 4


CLADE v. CHAMPION LABORATORIES, ET AL.

evidence on the whole record. Rodney, 320 S.C. at 519, 466 S.E.2d at 359.

"Substantial evidence" is evidence which, considering the record as a

whole, would allow reasonable minds to reach the conclusion that the

administrative agency reached. Lark v. Bi-Lo, Inc., 276 S.C. 130, 135-136,

276 S.E.2d 304, 306 (1981). The possibility of drawing two inconsistent

conclusions from the evidence does not prevent an administrative agency's

finding from being supported by substantial evidence. Ellis v. Spartan

Mills, 276 S.C. 216, 277 S.E.2d 590 (1981).

        The Commission sustained the single commissioner's finding that

petitioner "failed to prove by the necessary burden of proof that she

sustained a specific injury by an accident on July 20, 1994, or that her

back problems arose out of and in the course of her employment."

(emphasis added).

        After reviewing the record, we find this conclusion is reasonable and

supported by substantial evidence. Petitioner had the burden of proving

the conditions under which she worked caused the injury to her back.

Although she attempted to tie her injury to one of several events that

occurred at work, she told her supervisor, a co-worker, and the person in

charge of filing accident reports she did not know the cause of her pain.

She also told an insurance adjustor she could not pinpoint the cause of her

back problems. While her treating physician did state her injury was

aggravated by driving a forklift, he never specifically determined her

injury was caused by driving a forklift. A memorandum concerning

petitioner's injury from her supervisor noted he could not say whether her

injury was work related or not. Although the symptoms of her injury

appeared while petitioner was performing her job, it was reasonable in

light of the evidence presented for the commission to conclude petitioner

failed to establish a causal relationship between her work and her injury.

        The Commission's conclusion is supported by the evidence. However,

the opinion of the Court of Appeals focuses on petitioner's failure to prove

a specific causal event instead of her failure to prove a causal relationship:

Here, Petitioner was unable to identify any event that arose in
the course of her employment which precipitated her back
problems. It is inferable the injury might have occurred on
May 19, 1994, July 19, 1994, or July 20, 1994. Under these
circumstances, we find substantial evidence supports the
commission's finding that Petitioner failed to prove any event
arising out of and in the course of her employment which

p. 5


CLADE v. CHAMPION TABORATORIES, ET AL.
caused her back problems.

This language which requires an injured employee to identify a specific

event for an injury to be compensable contradicts the established law of

this state. See Stokes v. First Nat'l Bank, 306 S.C. 46, 49, 410 S.C.2d

248, 250 (1991) ("[N]o slip, fall or other fortuitous event or accident in the

cause of the injury is required; the unexpected result or industrial injury

is itself considered the compensable accident."). Therefore, although we

agree with the result of this case, the opinion of the Court of Appeals is

not an accurate characterization of the law.

CONCLUSION

        Accordingly, the opinion of the Court of Appeals is affirmed but

modified because injured employees are not required to prove their injuries

were caused by specific events in order to recover worker's compensation

benefits.

AFFIRMED AS MODIFIED.

        FINNEY, C.J., TOAL, MOORE and BURNETT, JJ., concur.

p. 6