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2011-UP-458 - Sanchez v. Cold Creek Nurseries

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

Isidro Osvando Sanchez, Employee, Respondent,

v.

Cold Creek Nurseries, Inc., Employer; Accident Insurance Company, Inc., Carrier; and the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Uninsured Employers' Fund, Defendants,

of whom Cold Creek Nurseries, Inc.; and the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Uninsured Employers' Fund are Respondents,

and Accident Insurance Company, Inc. is Appellant.


Appeal From Aiken County
Doyet A. Early, III, Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2011-UP-458
Heard September 14, 2011 – Filed October 13, 2011   


AFFIRMED


Clarke W. McCants, III, of Aiken, for Appellant.

Mark R. Calhoun, of Lexington; Patrick M. Teague, of Columbia; and Amy V. Cofield, of Lexington, for Respondents.

PER CURIAM: In this case brought pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (the Act), Accident Insurance Company, Inc. (Carrier) appeals a circuit court decision awarding benefits to Isidro Osvando Sanchez.  Carrier argues the circuit court erred in (1) affirming the decision of the Appellate Panel of the Workers' Compensation Commission (the Appellate Panel) that Sanchez's injuries arose out of and in the course of his employment[1] and (2) reversing the Appellate Panel's finding Carrier's workers' compensation insurance policy did not cover the accident.  We affirm pursuant to Rule 220(b)(1), SCACR, and the following authorities:

1.  As to whether the circuit court erred in affirming the finding Sanchez's injuries arose out of and in the course of his employment: S.C. Code Ann. § 42-1-160(A) (Supp. 2006) (providing a claimant is entitled to workers' compensation benefits if he sustains an "injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment"); Pierre v. Seaside Farms, Inc., 386 S.C. 534, 540, 689 S.E.2d 615, 618 (2010) ("An appellate court can reverse or modify the Commission's decision if it is affected by an error of law or is clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative, and substantial evidence in the whole record. . . .  [However, t]his Court must affirm the findings of fact made by the [Appellate Panel] if they are supported by substantial evidence." (citations and internal quotation marks omitted)); Hall, 376 S.C. at 350, 656 S.E.2d at 759 ("An accident arises out of employment when the employment is a contributing proximate cause of the accident. . . .  [I]f the injury can be seen to have followed as a natural incident of the work and to have been contemplated by a reasonable person familiar with the whole situation as a result of the exposure occasioned by the nature of the employment, then it arises out of the employment." (alteration in original) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted)); id. at 356-57, 656 S.E.2d at 762 ("An injury occurs in the course of employment when it occurs within the period of employment at a place where the employee reasonably may be in the performance of his duties and while fulfilling those duties or engaged in something incidental thereto.  An employee need not be in the actual performance of the duties for which he was expressly employed in order for his injury to be in the course of employment.  It is sufficient if the employee is engaged in a pursuit or undertaking consistent with his contract of hire and which in some logical manner pertains to or is incidental to his employment.  An act outside an employee's regular duties which is undertaken in good faith to advance the employer's interest, whether or not the employee's own assigned work is thereby furthered, is within the course of employment." (citations and internal quotation marks omitted)).

2.  As to whether the circuit court erred in reversing the Appellate Panel's finding Carrier's workers' compensation insurance policy did not cover the accident: M & M Corp. of S.C. v. Auto-Owners Ins. Co., 390 S.C. 255, 259, 701 S.E.2d 33, 35 (2010) (stating insurance policies are construed using the general rules of contract interpretation and in favor of coverage); Patterson v. Courtenay Mfg. Co., 196 S.C. 515, 527-28, 14 S.E.2d 16, 21 (1941) (explaining that if an employee was entitled to compensation and covered by the plain terms of the policy, the carrier is liable for the employee's benefits).

AFFIRMED.

FEW, C.J., THOMAS and KONDUROS, JJ., concur.


[1] Carrier maintains this issue is jurisdictional and thus is reviewed de novo.  Yet in workers' compensation cases, whether an injury arose out of and in the course of an employee's employment is not a jurisdictional question; rather, the question addresses compensability and is reviewed under the substantial evidence or legal error standard.  See Hall v. Desert Aire, Inc., 376 S.C. 338, 346, 656 S.E.2d 753, 757 (Ct. App. 2007) ("Does substantial evidence support the factual finding that Hall's injury arose out of and in the course of his employment, concomitantly satisfying the legal standard for compensability under section 42-1-160 of the South Carolina Code of Laws?").  Whether a claimant is an employee or independent contractor is the jurisdictional question.  Paschal v. Price, 392 S.C. 128, 132, 708 S.E.2d 771, 773 (2011).