THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Supreme Court
Anthony Sharpe, Respondent,
Case Produce, Inc., d/b/a
Case Produce Co., Inc.
and S.C. Workers'
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF
Appeal From Richland County
William P. Keesley, Circuit Court Judge
Opinion No. 24982
Heard June 8, 1999 - Filed August 2, 1999
Robert T. Williams, Sr., of Williams, Hendrix,
Steigner & Brink, P.A., of Lexington, for respondent.
Ajerenal Danley, of Columbia, and W.T. Geddings, of
Manning, for petitioners.
WALLER, A.J.: We granted a writ of certiorari to review the Court of
Appeals' opinion in Sharpe v. Case Produce Company, 329 S.C. 534,495 S.E.2d
790 (Ct. App. 1997). We reverse.
Sharpe worked for Case Produce packing and delivering cases of
tomatoes. He filed a Workers' Compensation claim, alleging he had been
injured in the course and scope of his employment. According to Sharpe's
testimony, on Thursday, July 21st 1994, he was supposed to deliver 8 cases of
tomatoes, weighing 25 lbs. each. Since it was a fairly small load, he decided to
use his own car to deliver them. As he went to set the first two boxes of
tomatoes in his trunk, he "felt like electricity go through my whole body.... So,
I dropped the tomatoes and leaned up. When I leaned up my legs quit working
and I fell on the pavement, skint my leg up and I couldn't move, I couldn't feel
my legs." Sharpe testified that he had worked the three days prior to the
accident without any problems. On cross-examination, Sharpe testified he was
having some kidney pain down his left side prior to the date of the accident, for
which his employer had offered him a back brace. After the accident, he was
hospitalized for 10 days, during which he had disc surgery performed on his
back.1 When cross-examined about whether he had had a physical altercation
with his girlfriend, Shonda Goins Harper, the Saturday prior to the accident
(July 16st), Sharpe denied that Harper had pushed him against a counter, or
hurt his back in any way, and maintained she merely slapped him in the face
and pushed him lightly in the chest. He denied that he went to work on
Monday complaining of severe back pain due to the fight.
Sharpe's employer, Doc Case, presented an entirely different picture.
Case testified that on Monday, July 18th, when he arrived at work he found
Sharpe sitting on the front dock with a sore on his eye, his arms all scratched
up and complaining he'd been in a fight and could hardly stand up because his
back hurt so bad. He was leaning over the packing table or squatting down in
the morning and was hurting so bad that Case sent him home at lunchtime.
When he returned the next day, Sharpe told him his back still hurt pretty bad,
so Case gave him a back brace to use. On Wednesday, Sharpe told Case he felt
like he was a little better. According to Case, however, although Sharpe came
was a decompressive laminectomy of the T9, T10 and T11 discs.
to work Monday through Wednesday, he really was "too broke up and hurting
to do anything." On Thursday, July 21st, while most of the other employees
were on their morning break, Case heard Sharpe yell for help. He went and
found Sharpe lying at least 4-5 feet from his car, between the car and the
loading dock. Sharpe told Case he couldn't move his legs and asked him to call
an ambulance. Case did not see the alleged accident, but he testified it did not
look like the tomatoes had been dropped, as generally if the cases were dropped,
the lids would pop.
Shonda Goins Harper, the girlfriend with whom Sharpe allegedly fought
the Saturday prior to the accident, testified she and Sharpe were involved in a
physical altercation on Saturday, July 16th, during which she pushed Sharpe
pretty hard up against the sink counter and bar five or six times. The counter
was at about the same height as Sharpe's incisions from his disc surgery. When
she saw Sharpe a couple days after the fight, he told her he was still real sore
and his back had been bothering him.
The only medical evidence in the record regarding the causation of
Sharpe's back injury is 1) an undated note from Dr. Victoria Palkanis Samuels
stating the injury and surgery were a result of a work related accident, and 2)
a "History" contained in the discharge summary of Lexington Medical Center
indicating Sharpe was admitted "following a sudden loss of sensory motor
function in the lower extremities with extreme midthoracic back pain which
occurred when the patient was lifting at work." It is undisputed that Sharpe
never told Doctor Samuels about the alleged altercation with Shonda Goins
After hearing the testimony, the Single Commissioner issued his order
finding Sharpe did not sustain an injury by accident arising out of and in the
course of his employment. The Commissioner specifically noted that he did not
find Sharpe's testimony credible, but did find Case and Harper credible
regarding their testimony that Sharpe injured his back during the confrontation
on Saturday, July 16th. The Commissioner specifically discounted the undated
report of Dr. Samuels. The Full Commission affirmed, as did the Circuit Court.
The Court of Appeals reversed. It held there was "no evidence the injury, as
Sharpe relate[d], did not happen." The Court of Appeals further found that the
Full Commission had ignored the medical evidence. The Court of Appeals went
on to hold that, even if Sharpe was injured in the altercation with Harper, he
was nonetheless entitled to compensation due to the aggravation of his pre-
1. Did the Court of Appeals substitute its view of the evidence for
2. Did the Court of Appeals err in finding Sharpe was, in any
event, entitled to compensation for the aggravation of his pre-
1. SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE
As noted, the Court of Appeals found "no evidence the, injury, as
Sharpe relate[d], did not happen." This was error.
Whether there is any causal connection between employment and an
injury is a question of fact for the Commission. Rhodes v. Guignard Brick
Works, 245 S.C. 304, 140 S.E.2d 487 (1965). The Commission's decision must
be affirmed if the factual findings are supported by substantial evidence in the
record. Minor v. Philips Prods., 329 S.C. 321, 494 S.E.2d 819 (1997).
Substantial evidence is that evidence which, in considering the record as a
whole, would allow reasonable minds to reach the conclusion the Commission
reached. McGuffin v. Schlumberger-Sangamo, 307 S.C. 184, 414 S.E.2d 162
(1992). The possibility of drawing two inconsistent conclusions from the
evidence does not prevent the Commission's finding from being supported by
substantial evidence. Hoxit v. Michelin Tire Corp., 304 S.C. 461, 405 S.E.2d
407 (1991). Where there is a conflict in the evidence, the Commission's findings
of fact are conclusive. Id. The final determination of witness credibility and the
weight to be accorded evidence is reserved to the Commission and it is not the
task of the court to weigh the evidence as found by the Commission. Rogers v.
Kunja Knitting Mills, Inc.,.312 S.C. 377, 440 S.E.2d 401 (Ct.App. 1994), cert.
dismissed as improvidently granted, 318 S.C. 187, 456 S.E.2d 918 (1995).
Contrary to the Court of Appeals' holding, there was evidence, in the form
of the testimony of Doc Case and Shonda Goins Harper, from which the
Commission could have found that the accident, as reported by Sharpe, did not
happen and that, in fact, Sharpe had "staged" the accident. It was for the
Commission to determine the credibility of the witnesses. Although there was
evidence, in the form of Sharpe's testimony, which would have supported a
contrary finding, there is ample evidence in the record supporting the
Moreover, the Court of Appeals erred in holding the Commission ignored
the medical evidence, i.e., the undated note of Dr. Samuels. Recently, in Tiller
v. National Health Care Center, 334 S.C. 333, ___, 513 S.E.2d 843, 846 (1999))
this Court stated, "while medical testimony is entitled to great respect, the fact
finder may disregard it if there is other competent evidence in the record. ...
Indeed, medical testimony should not be held conclusive irrespective of other
evidence. Expert medical testimony is designed to aid the Commission in
coming to the correct conclusion; therefore, the Commission determines the
weight and credit to be given to the expert testimony. Once admitted,
expert testimony is to be considered just like any other testimony." (emphasis
supplied, internal citations omitted). Accordingly, in deciding whether
substantial evidence supports a finding of causation, it is appropriate to
consider both the lay and expert evidence. Id. Moreover, in compensation
proceedings, where uncontroverted medical opinions are merely deductions
drawn from certain symptoms, the final conclusion remains with the triers of
fact.2 Anderson v. Campbell Tile Co., 202 S.C. 54, 24 S.E.2d 104 (1943).
Here, in focusing solely on an undated medical note of Dr. Samuels to the
effect that Sharpe's injury was the result of a work related accident, the Court
of Appeals simply ignored the testimony of Doc Case and Shonda Harper that
Sharpe was injured on Saturday, July 16th. It was within the Commission's
discretion, as the ultimate fact-finder, to discount this evidence.
Although there was evidence from which the Commissioner could have
gone the other way, there is also clearly evidence which would allow reasonable
minds to reach the conclusion he reached. McGuffin v. Schlumberger-Sangamo,
supra. Accordingly, we hold the Court of Appeals erred in substituting its view
of the evidence for that of the Commission.
2. AGGRAVATION OF PRE-EXISTING INJURY
The Court of Appeals also held that even if Sharpe was injured in an
altercation with Harper, he was nonetheless entitled to compensation for the
aggravation of his injury from the July 21st accident. This was error.
it is impossible to determine whether her opinion is based strictly upon medical
symptoms reported to her by Sharpe, or on some other factors. The burden was
on Sharpe to prove his injury arose out of employment. Clade v. Champion
Laboratories, 330 S.C. 8, 406 S.E.2d 856 (1998).
The Single Commissioner specifically held that Sharpe did not sustain an
injury by accident arising out of his employment on July 21st, 1994. Again,
although there was evidence from which the Commissioner could have found
that an accident occurred on July 21st, and from which he could have held a
prior injury was aggravated, there is ample evidence in the record from which
reasonable minds could infer that Sharpe was actually injured on July 16th that
no accident occurred on July 21st, and that, in fact, Sharpe "staged" the July 21st
accident. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals erred in finding the aggravation of
a pre-existing injury where there is substantial evidence supporting the
Commission's holding that Sharpe did not suffer an injury by accident on July
21st. The Court of Appeals'opinion is
FINNEY, C.J., TOAL, MOORE, and BURNETT, JJ., concur.