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2011-UP-530 - Owens v. Thompson Construction Group

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

Thomas J. Owens, Jr., Employee, Appellant,

v.

Thompson Construction Group, Inc., Employer, and New Hampshire Insurance Company, Carrier, c/o Gallagher Bassett Services, Respondents.


Appeal from the Appellate Panel


Unpublished Opinion No. 2011-UP-530
Submitted November 1, 2011 – Filed December 2, 2011   


AFFIRMED


Stephen J. Wukela, of Florence, for Appellant.

M. Chad Abramson, Weston Adams, III, and Helen F. Hiser, all of Columbia, for Respondents.

PER CURIAM:  Thomas J. Owens appeals the denial of his workers' compensation claim by the Appellate Panel of the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission (the Appellate Panel), arguing the Appellate Panel erred in finding he did not suffer a compensable injury arising out of and in the course of his employment.  Specifically, Owens contends his injury was compensable because it resulted from unusual or excessive exertion caused by rapidly ascending one hundred feet of stairs in approximately two and a half minutes during the heat of the day.  We affirm.[1]

An employee may receive workers' compensation benefits for an injury "arising out of and in the course of employment."  S.C. Code Ann. § 42-1-160(A) (Supp. 2010).  However, heart attacks "arising out of and in the course of employment unaccompanied by physical injury are not considered compensable if they result from any event or series of events which are incidental to normal employer/employee relations . . . , except when these actions are taken in an extraordinary and unusual manner."  S.C. Code Ann.  § 42-1-160(C) (Supp. 2010); see also Black v. Barnwell Cnty., 243 S.C. 531, 535, 134 S.E.2d 753, 755 (1964) ("The general rule has been adopted in this State that a coronary attack suffered by an employee constitutes a compensable accident . . . if it is induced by unexpected strain or over-exertion in the performance of the duties of his employment, or by unusual and extraordinary conditions in the employment.").  In order to prove a heart attack occurring at work constitutes a compensable injury, the claimant must show (1) the employee's exertion during the performance of his duties at work was unusual and extraordinary and (2) a causal connection existed between the exertion during his employment and the heart attack.  Black, 243 S.C. at 535-36, 134 S.E.2d at 755.  "If the evidence was conflicting upon these issues, or either of them, such conflicts in the evidence could only be resolved by the [Appellate Panel], the fact-finding body."  Id. at 536, 134 S.E.2d at 755.

We find substantial evidence supports the Appellate Panel's finding that Owens did not suffer a compensable injury arising out of and in the course of his employment.  See S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-380(5)(e) (Supp. 2010) (providing this court must affirm a decision of the Appellate Panel if it is supported by substantial evidence).   Furthermore, we defer to the Appellate Panel's finding that Owens died of a cardiac arrhythmia and due to natural causes.  See Lockridge v. Santens of Am., Inc., 344 S.C. 511, 518-19, 544 S.E.2d 842, 846 (Ct. App. 2001). (noting "[t]he final determination of witness credibility and the weight to be accorded evidence is reserved to the [Appellate Panel]" and finding "expert medical testimony is designed to aid the [Appellate Panel] in coming to the correct conclusion; therefore, the [Appellate Panel] determines the weight and credit to be given to the expert testimony" (internal quotation marks omitted)).

AFFIRMED.

SHORT, WILLIAMS, and GEATHERS, JJ., concur.


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