Davis Adv. Sh. No. 8
THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Supreme Court
Vivian Clade, Petitioner,
Insurance Company, Respondents.
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF
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
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.
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.
For an injury to be compensable, it must arise out of and in the
course of employment. S.C. Code Ann. § 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
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
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."
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:
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.
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
AFFIRMED AS MODIFIED.
FINNEY, C.J., TOAL, MOORE and BURNETT, JJ., concur.