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2011-UP-038 - Dunson v. Alex Lee. Inc.

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE. IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 268(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals

Prince J. Dunson, Employee, Respondent,

v.

Alex Lee, Inc., Employer, & American Zurich Insurance Company, Carrier, Appellants.


Appeal From Florence County
Appellate Panel


Unpublished Opinion No.  2011-UP-038
Submitted January 1, 2011 – Filed February 1, 2011 


AFFIRMED       


Adrianne LaVonne Turner, of Columbia, for Appellants.

Stephen J. Wukela, of Florence, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM: Alex Lee, Inc. and American Zurich Insurance Company (collectively, "Lee") appeal a decision by the Appellate Panel of the Workers' Compensation Commission (the Appellate Panel) granting Prince J. Dunson total temporary disability benefits under the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Act.  Lee argues the Appellate Panel erred in finding Dunson's injury compensable because the injury did not arise out of Dunson's employment with Lee.  We affirm.[1]

Lee argues Dunson's injury resulted from an idiopathic fall caused by a pre-existing breakdown in his knee, and Dunson provided only speculative and thus insubstantial evidence he tripped over rubber patches in Lee's parking lot.  We disagree.  An appellate court can reverse the Appellate Panel's decision if it is clearly erroneous.  Pierre v. Seaside Farms, Inc., 386 S.C. 534, 540, 689 S.E.2d 615, 618 (2010) (citations omitted); see also S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-380(5)(d)-(e) (Supp. 2009).  A decision is not clearly erroneous if it is supported by substantial evidence, and "[s]ubstantial evidence is not a mere scintilla of evidence, but evidence which, considering the record as a whole, would allow reasonable minds to reach the conclusion the agency reached."  Tennant v. Beaufort Cnty. Sch. Dist., 381 S.C. 617, 620, 674 S.E.2d 488, 490 (2009) (citation omitted).  "Of course, the necessary requirements for compensation may be established by circumstantial evidence."  Bagwell v. Ernest Burwell, Inc., 227 S.C. 444, 450, 88 S.E.2d 611, 613 (1955) (citation omitted). 

"A claimant may recover workers' compensation benefits if he sustains an 'injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment.'"  Pierre, 386 S.C. at 541, 689 S.E.2d at 618 (quoting S.C. Code Ann. § 42-1-160(A) (Supp. 2009)).  "An accident arises out of the employment when the accident happens because of the employment, as when the employment is a contributing proximate cause."  Id. (citation omitted).  An accident does not arise out of employment "[w]here an employee suffers an idiopathic fall" or where "some internal breakdown of the body" causes a fall.  Crosby v. Wal-Mart Store, Inc., 330 S.C. 489, 493, 499 S.E.2d 253, 256 (Ct. App. 1998).

Here, Dunson provided substantial evidence his injury arose out of his employment.  Dunson fractured his kneecap because he fell to the ground while walking from his company truck across the company parking lot to an area where hand trucks were kept.  He provided direct and circumstantial evidence he injured his knee while tripping over the rubber patches in the truck parking lot.  Although Dunson initially did not know why he fell, he subsequently discovered two rubber pothole patches on the ground in his path to the hand trucks and believed he tripped over those patches.  Moreover, he told a responding insurance adjuster that his knee did not give way, and medical testimony established the character of Dunson's injury did not suggest the fall resulted from a pre-existing breakdown of the knee.  Consequently, Dunson provided substantial evidence the injury was neither idiopathic nor caused by a pre-existing weakness in his knee, and therefore, the Appellate Panel's decision was not speculative.  Accordingly, the Appellate Panel properly awarded Dunson total temporary disability benefits.

AFFIRMED.

HUFF and LOCKEMY, JJ., and GOOLSBY, A.J., concur.


[1] We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.