THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Supreme Court
Joseph Glenn Hicks, Sr.,
Deceased Employee; and
Shirley Hicks and
Joseph Glenn Hicks, Jr.,
Minors, by and through
their Guardian ad Litem, Respondents,
Piedmont Cold Storage,
Inc., Employer, and
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF
Appeal From Greenville County
C. Victor Pyle, Jr., Circuit Court Judge
Opinion No. 24928
Heard December 17, 1997 - Filed April 5, 1999
David Hill Keller, of Haynsworth, Marion, McKay &
Guerard, of Greenville, for petitioners.
Robert P. Foster, of Foster & Foster, L.L.P., of
Greenville, for respondents.
FINNEY, C.J.: We granted a writ of certiorari to review the
Court of Appeals' decision in Hicks v. Piedmont Cold Storage, Inc., 324 S.C.
628, 479 S.E.2d 831 (Ct. App. 1996). We reverse.
The children of the deceased, Joseph Hicks, Sr., brought this
workers' compensation action against employer, Piedmont Cold Storage,
seeking death benefits. Hicks was killed while repairing the personal vehicle
of the plant manager on a Saturday at Piedmont Cold Storage. The single
commissioner, affirmed by the appellate panel of the commission, denied the
claim finding that Hicks did not: (1) work regularly on Saturdays; (2) clock in
on the date of the accident; or (3) benefit Piedmont in any way on the day of
the accident. The commissioner also found that Hicks worked for the
personal benefit of Lewis and therefore his death did not result from an
injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment with
The circuit judge reversed and held the tasks performed by Hicks
at the time of his death were incidental to his employment. Further, he
found the accident occurred: (1) on Piedmont premises; (2) with Piedmont
tools; and (3) while he performed a task under the direction and supervision
of his superior. The circuit judge concluded the commission's decision was
against the substantial weight of the evidence and ordered Piedmont to pay
death and funeral benefits to the minor children. The Court of Appeals
Piedmont contends the Court of Appeals and circuit court erred
in reversing the commission's decision because it was supported by
substantial evidence. Further, Piedmont asserts the Court of Appeals and
circuit court substituted their judgment for that of the workers'
compensation commission on questions of fact. We agree.
The findings of an administrative agency are presumed correct
and will be set aside only if unsupported by substantial evidence. Rodney v.
Michelin Tire Corp., 320 S.C. 515, 466 S.E.2d 357 (1996). A court shall not
substitute its judgment for that of the agency as to the weight of the evidence
on questions of fact. Rodney, supra. The court may reverse the decision if
substantial rights of the appellant have been prejudiced because the
administrative findings, inferences, conclusions or decisions are clearly
erroneous in view of the reliable, probative and substantial evidence of the
whole record. Id.
The key factor in determining the children's entitlement to
compensation here is whether the work benefitted the employer. Fountain v.
Hartsville Oil Mill, 207 S.C. 119, 32 S.E.2d 11 (1945)(workers' compensation
benefits denied because the employee's activity provided no benefit to the
employer). The employee in Fountain was injured during regular working
hours while working at his supervisor's private residence and we held there
was no coverage. Here, the decedent was being paid by his supervisor for
work done on the supervisor's personal vehicle on a non-work day at the
employer's business. The record shows that Hicks did not regularly work on
Saturdays and did not clock in on the day of the accident.
There is substantial evidence in the record supporting the
commission's finding that the work performed by Hicks did not benefit
Piedmont and was for the personal benefit of the plant manager. The
findings of fact must be affirmed if they are supported by the evidence.
Parsons v. Georgetown Steel, 318 S.C. 63, 456 S.E.2d 366 (1995). Based on
the reasoning in Fountain, the accident here was outside the course of
decedent's employment. Further, the circuit court and Court of Appeals
substituted their judgment for that of the commission in finding that Hicks
conferred some benefit on Piedmont. The supervisor did not lose any time
from work as the repair was being done on a Saturday.
The substantial evidence rule controls here, and accordingly the
decision of the Court of Appeals is
MOORE, WALLER, and BURNETT, JJ., concur. TOAL, A.J.,
dissenting in separate opinion.
TOAL, A.J.: I respectfully dissent from the majority's determination that
Hicks's injury is not compensable under the South Carolina Workers'
Compensation Act. I would hold that Hicks's injury was by accident arising out
of and in the course of his employment and therefore compensable. Thus, I
would affirm the Court of Appeals' opinion.
The majority relies exclusively upon Fountain v. Hartsville,1 stating, "The
key factor in determining the children's entitlement to compensation here is
whether the work benefitted the employer." However, by framing the analysis
in such a restricted manner, the majority disregards this Court's trend in
In Fountain, this Court relied heavily on, and quoted extensively from,
the North Carolina Supreme Court's decision in Burnette v. Palmer-Lipe Paint
Co., 4 S.E.2d 507 (N.C. 1939). Since Burnette, however, North Carolina courts
have recognized the impossible situation in which an employee is placed when
a superior asks the employee to perform personal work for the superior. In
Pollock v. Reeves Brothers, Inc. , 328 S.E.2d 282 (N.C. 1985), the North Carolina
Supreme Court, in reversing its court of appeals, stated that an employee is
"entitled to recover under the workers' compensation principle that when a
superior directs a subordinate employee to go on an errand or perform some
duty beyond his normal duties, an injury sustained in the course of that task is
compensable." Pollock, 328 S.E.2d at 287. One of the cases relied upon by
Pollock was Stewart v. North Carolina Dep't of Corrections, 225 S.E.2d 336
(N.C. Ct. App. 1976), the same case cited by our Court of Appeals in the instant
case. While these North Carolina decisions do not totally jettison the "employer
benefit" requirement, they do hold that even a slight, indirect benefit to the
employer will suffice where the employee is acting pursuant to instructions by
his superior. See Stewart, supra (noting that the employer would benefit
indirectly because it was anticipated the morale of the employees would
However, one need not go beyond the holdings of this Court to observe
that we have awarded compensation in a variety of circumstances where the
employee was acting outside his normal duties, and the benefit to the employer
was only slight or indirect. See, e.g., Howell v. Kash & Karry, 264 S.C. 298~ 214
S.E.2d 821 (1975)(holding that the injury was compensable where the employee
was injured while chasing two boys who had stolen a customer's purse); Sexton
v. Freeman Gas Co., 258 S.C. 15, 187 S.E.2d 128 (1972)(holding that the injury
was compensable where employee was injured while driving company truck to
help put out brush fire); Cauley v. Ross Builders Supplies, Inc., 238 S.C. 38, 118
S.E.2d 879 (1961)(holding that the injury was compensable where employee was
injured while using the company's table saw to fashion a table leg for a fellow
employee); Portee v. South Carolina State Hosp., 234 S.C. 50, 106 S.E.2d 670
(1959)(holding that the injury was compensable under the "employer benefit"
doctrine where employee died after receiving a penicillin injection from a co
employee as medication for a sore throat). Clearly, the overwhelming weight
of authority requires that compensation be awarded in the present case.
I would join the well reasoned opinion of the Court of Appeals and affirm
the circuit court's decision to award compensation based on the fact that the
injury occurred (1) on the. employer's premises; (2) with the employer's tools;
and (3) while Hicks performed a task under the direction and supervision of his
superior. Moreover, Hicks conferred an indirect benefit on his employer in that
his superior was able to spend more time running the plant in lieu of dropping
off and picking up his car from a repair shop.