THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Supreme Court
Employee; Rosita L.
Adams, Widow; Ji Hae
Kim Adams, Minor
Adopted Child; Martina
Marie McKeown, Claimants,
of whom Martina Marie
McKeown is Petitioner,
and Ji Hae Kim Adams
Employer and Liberty
Company, Carrier, Defendants.
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE
COURT OF APPEALS
Appeal From Chester County
Paul E. Short, Jr., Circuit Court Judge
Opinion No. 25165
Heard November 2, 1999 - Filed July 3, 2000
Claude S. Coleman, of Hemphill, Hemphill &
Coleman, of Chester, for petitioner.
J. Mark Hayes, II of Harrison and Hayes, of
Spartanburg, for respondent.
PER CURIAM: This case is before the Court on a writ of
certiorari to review the Court of Appeals' decision in Adams v. Texfi
Industries, 330 S.C. 305, 498 S.E.2d 885 (Ct. App. 1998) (Adams III). We
reverse, and reinstate the decision of the full commission finding petitioner
was wholly dependent upon the deceased and therefore entitled to receive
worker's compensation benefits.
This is the fourth time this matter has been before an appellate
court. In Adams v. Texfi Industries, 314 S.C. 313, 443 S.E.2d 913 (Ct. App.
1994)(Adams I), the Court of Appeals held the petitioner, as the deceased's
stepchild, was not entitled to the presumption that she was wholly
dependent under S.C. Code Ann. § 42-9-110 (1985). We granted certiorari,
and held that if a stepchild demonstrates "dependence" within the meaning
of S.C. Code Ann. § 42-1-70 (1985), he will be deemed "wholly dependent"
under § 42-9-110. We explained that dependence under § 42-1-70 is
something less than "wholly dependent" and adopted the test found in Day v.
Day, 216 S.C. 334, 58 S.E.2d 83 (1957). Adams v. Texfi Industries, 320 S.C.
213, 464 S.E.2d 109 (1995) (Adams II). We remanded the case to the full
commission for reconsideration in light of this standard. Id.
On remand, the full commission determined petitioner was
dependent within the meaning of Day and § 42-1-70,. and therefore entitled
to the presumption found in § 42-9-110. Accordingly, the full commission
awarded petitioner benefits. The circuit court affirmed, but the Court of
Appeals reversed. Adams III, supra. We granted certiorari.
Did the Court of Appeals err in holding that the Commission
erred as, a matter of law in applying the standard for the reliance of a
stepchild upon a worker for support?
The Court of Appeals in Adams III relied upon language from the
South Carolina's Children's Code, which states that the person responsible
for the child's welfare harms the child by failure to provide adequate food,
clothing, shelter, education, and health care, to determine if petitioner was
dependent upon the deceased. The application of the Children's Code
standard was error, and we take this opportunity to reiterate that the
dependency standard to be used in a workers' compensation case is that
announced in Adams v. Texfi Industries II.
Courts will not overturn the factual findings of the commission
unless they are clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative, and
substantial evidence on the whole record. Brown v. Ryder Truck Rental, 300
S.C. 530, 389 S.E.2d 161 (Ct. App. 1990). " 'Substantial evidence' is not a
mere scintilla of evidence nor the evidence viewed blindly from one side of
the case, but is evidence which, considering the record as a whole, would
allow reasonable minds to reach the conclusion that the administrative
agency reached or must have reached in order to justify its action." Lark v.
Bi-Lo, Inc., 276 S.C. 130, 276 S.E.2d 304 (1981). The substantial evidence
test "need not and must not be either judicial fact-finding or a substitution of
judicial judgment for agency judgment." Id. at 307.
The commission, applying the standard announced in Adams II,
determined that petitioner relied on the deceased for the reasonable
necessities of life and was sufficiently dependent. Its decision was based on
the following factual findings supported by the record: the deceased
employee provided medical insurance coverage, braces, household utilities,
groceries, car expenses, clothing, summer camp, and made payments on the
indebtedness on the family home. Evidence in the record also indicates that
on their joint tax return, the deceased employee and his wife claimed
petitioner as a dependent.
There was evidence in the record to support the commission's
findings. Lark v. Bi-Lo, Inc., supra. The Court of Appeals erred in reversing
the commission's findings.
The decision of the Court of Appeals is therefore