Bailey v. American General Ins. Co., No. A-4795

CourtSupreme Court of Texas
Writing for the CourtSMITH; GARWOOD; WALKER; CALVERT
Citation279 S.W.2d 315,154 Tex. 430
PartiesEmery Eugene BAILEY, Petitioner, v. AMERICAN GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Respondent.
Docket NumberNo. A-4795
Decision Date11 May 1955

Page 315

279 S.W.2d 315
154 Tex. 430
Emery Eugene BAILEY, Petitioner,
v.
AMERICAN GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Respondent.
No. A-4795.
Supreme Court of Texas.
May 11, 1955.
Rehearing Denied June 8, 1955.

[154 Tex. 431]

Page 316

Hill, Brown, Kronzer & Abraham, John L. Hill and James W. Kronzer, Houston, for petitioner.

Vinson, Elkins, Weems & Searls, B. Jeff Crane, Jr., and L. J. Clayton, Houston, for respondent.

[154 Tex. 432] SMITH, Justice.

This is a workmen's compensation suit. The case was submitted to a jury upon special issues, resulting in a verdict and judgment for petitioner for 50% partial disability. That judgment has been reversed and rendered by the Court of Civil Appeals. 268 S.W.2d 528.

The petitioner and another workman, while in the course of their employment, were at opposite ends of a movable scaffold which was supported by cables from the roof of a building. The end of the scaffold opposite that on which petitioner stood gave way, and the other workman fell to his death on the roof of another building eight stories below. Petitioner saw his co-worker strike the roof below and thought he himself was about to fall and be killed, but was caught in the cable in such manner that he did not fall. The wind was blowing and the scaffold swung away from the wall, but as it swung back petitioner was released and was able to jump to the roof of another building which was about the same height as the scaffold. Petitioner suffered a bruise on his leg and cable burn, but such injuries were minor in nature, were completely healed within a short time after the incident, and did not cause or contribute to any disability on his part. Petitioner contends that the traumatic effect of the accident upon his nervous system directly resulted in a disabling neurosis, termed an 'anxiety reaction' or 'anxiety state' by both medical experts heard in the trial court, which has rendered it impossible for claimant to engage in the field of employment for which he is trained and upon which he depends for his livelihood. The majority of the Court of Civil Appeals sustained respondent's contention that the petitioner's disability is not due to an injury within the meaning of the statutory definition of injury. With this conclusion we do not agree.

The question here is: Has Emery Eugene Bailey suffered damage or harm to the physical structure of his body? Petitioner, as a yound man, became an iron worker, took an apprenticeship, graduated fairly promptly to a journeyman's scale in journeyman's work, and the evidence shows that at all times prior to the date of this unfortunate accident petitioner was able to perform capably duties as an iron worker; that he was considered one of the better iron workers and that he was not suffering from any nervous disorder and was as steady as the average individual. The testimony in the trial shows that when petitioner tried to resume his work as an iron worker he was [154 Tex. 433] tense, nervous, jumpy and affected with an overpowering terror and fear of impending disaster. His faculties for alertness, concentration and ability to think and act under the normal stress and strain of his employment have been definitely impaired to such an extent that he is no longer qualified as a structural steel and iron worker. He has become moody and irritable; he has periods of 'blanking out'; he is unable to rest at the end of a working day and is affected with constant, recurring nightmares evidenced by quivering, jumping and crying out in his sleep. The record shows that on one occasion petitioner 'froze', literally

Page 317

paralyzed, while attempting to work at a considerable height following his accident. Tests performed by the two neurosurgeons prior to the trial showed that petitioner's blood pressure was 140/92; that he was hypersensitive to pain, and that there was tremor of his closed eyelids and that his reflexes were underactive.

We find from excerpts of the testimony that Dr. Brown testified, in response to questions, as follows:

'Q. 'Anxiety state' is that something a neurosurgeon can diagnose, just like a fractured arm? A. Yes.

'Q. State whether or not that is a term by which a neurosurgeon, a medical terminology by which a neurosurgeon describes harm to the function of the nervous system. A. Yes. The neurosurgeon, or the neurologist, or the psychiatrist would use the same terms in describing disturbance of function to the nervous system.

'Q. State whether or not, in your opinion, based upon your first examination and the findings which you made, you had any opinion then as to whether or not there had been a disturbance, interference, or harm to the function of Mr. Bailey's nervous system as a result of the accident or accidental event which he described as having occurred on October 31st. A. Yes, I would think there was definitely a great psychic trauma to the individual and that he developed this nervous condition as a result of it. It was really a precipitation rather than a cause, but he probably wouldn't have developed it without this traumatic experience.

'Q. You use this word 'trauma', you say 'psychic trauma' and you say 'traumatic experience'. What do you mean by 'trauma' or 'traumatic'? [154 Tex. 434] A. I mean by that injury or damage to the individual so that he is not functioning properly. In this particular instance, it is not an organic damage, but what we call a functional damage and might be likened to a short circuit. The wires are still there, but they have shorted out, and he is not functioning as he should.

'Q. Now, Doctor, so I can be sure the record is clear, is it your professional opinion, based upon a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that this condition has been brought about or produced by this event or occurrence of October 31st that occurred on that scaffold that he described? A. Yes.

'Q. What have been your primary suggestions, Doctor? A. I have recommended that he do as much work as he is capable of doing, that he get as much recreation as is possible for him, and that he get adequate rest.

'A. I have, given him drugs in an attempt to control his nervousness, to see he gets enough rest, and to do away with his depression, which I learned about after his original visit.

'Q. Doctor, I would like to get your ideas on this question of nervous injury or injury to the nervous system, psychic trauma or whatever you want to call it, where it affects a man's nervous disposition, his degree of tenseness or non-tenseness, his degree of apprehension or non-apprehension. Is that just as well accepted and just as well known in the medical literature of this country as any other type of direct injury, whether it be a fractured skull, or a broken back, or anything else? A. Yes, I would say so.

'Q. Is that type of thing calculated to be just as real and disabling, this damage to the nervous system, as damage to any other part of the useable body of a man? A. Yes.

'Q. Is there any reason in the world why Mr. Bailey could not have gone along, assuming for the moment he was a perfectly normal man, that he suffered a most serious nervous disorder, that he was just like any other normal individual, no hero, but not a 'scary-cat'

Page 318

either, a normal man functioning normal, like normal things, reacted normally to situations, is there any reason without this episode that occurred on October [154 Tex. 435] 31st he could not have looked forward in all probability to continuing with that same type nervous set-up as before? A. I don't think so.

'Q. Has it been your experience and have you seen both in the service and out, damage or harm, or interference with the function of the nervous system, brought about by an episode similar to the one described here without there actually being any physical, lasting damage, such as broken bones and the like? A. Yes.

'Q. Is that disabling? A. Yes, Definitely.'

No issue is raised concerning the causal relationship between the accident and the psychic and psychosomatic injury described above. All parties agree that the experience of seeing a fellow workman plunge to his death and narrowly escape death himself, directly produced the injury which has disabled this petitioner.

In determining the meaning of the definition of injury contained in the Workmen's Compensation Statute, Vernon's Ann.Civ.St. art. 8306 et seq., the Court should be guided by the often announced rule of construction in reference to this statute, that since it is 'remedial', 'if there be any reasonable doubt which may arise in a particular case as to the right of the injured employee to compensation, same should be solved in favor of such right.' Jones v. Texas Indemnity Ins. Co., Tex.Civ.App.1949, 223 S.W.2d 286, 288, writ refused.

The following definition is contained in Section 1, Article 8309, Subsection 5, Workmen's Compensation Law: 'The terms 'injury' or 'personal injury' shall be construed to mean damage or harm to the physical structure of the body and such diseases or infection as naturally result therefrom.' (Emphasis added.) There are two ways to construe the words 'physical structure of the body'. The respondent considers 'physical structure' to imply a grouping of individual, but connected, parts-as bones, tissues, nerves, blood vessels, etc. Then, so the reasoning proceeds, the statutory definition requires a lesion or actual gross alteration of one or more of these individual parts in order to qualify as an 'injury.' We do not agree with this interpretation. A liberal construction of the statute, as outlined below, is the more desirable and proper interpretation.

[154 Tex. 436] The phrase 'physical structure of the body', as it is used in the statute, must refer to the entire body, not simply to the skeletal structure or to the circulatory system or to the digestive system. It refers to the whole, to the complex of perfectly integrated and interdependent bones, tissues and organs which function together by means of...

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102 practice notes
  • Means v. Baltimore County, No. 20
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • March 4, 1997
    ...298 S.C. 13, 377 S.E.2d 922 (1988); Tennessee, Jose v. Equifax, Inc., 556 S.W.2d 82 (Tenn.1977); Texas, Bailey v. American Gen. Ins. Co., 154 Tex. 430, 279 S.W.2d 315 (1955); Utah, UTAH CODE ANN. § 35-1-45.1 (1996); Vermont, Bedini v. Frost, 678 A.2d 893, 894 (Vt.1996); Virginia, Burlington......
  • Southwire Co. v. George, No. S95G1507
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • June 3, 1996
    ...aff'd, 306 S.C. 46, 410 S.E.2d 248 (1991); Jose v. Equifax, Inc., 556 S.W.2d 82 (Tenn.1977); Bailey v. American Gen. Ins. Co., 154 Tex. 430, 279 S.W.2d 315 (1955); Burlington Mills Corp. v. Hagood, 177 Va. 204, 13 S.E.2d 291 (1941); Consolidated Freightways v. Drake, 678 P.2d 874 (Wyo.1984)......
  • Dunlavey v. Economy Fire and Cas. Co., No. 93-1429
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • January 18, 1995
    ...to distinguish a mental injury from a physical injury because both result in a disability). Compare Bailey v. American Gen. Ins. Co., 154 Tex. 430, 279 S.W.2d 315, 318-19 (1955) (determining that a statute defining "injury" as "damage or harm to the physical structure of the body" included ......
  • Fenwick v. Oklahoma State Penitentiary, No. 69691
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • May 15, 1990
    ...42.23(a) (1987). 30 In Indemnity Ins. Co. v. Loftis, 103 Ga.App. 749, 120 S.E.2d 655-56 (1961). 31 See, Bailey v. American Gen. Ins. Co., 154 Tex. 430, 279 S.W.2d 315, 319 (1955); Larson, "Mental and Nervous Injury in Workmen's Compensation," 23 Vanderbilt L.Rev. 1243, 1252-53 32 K.P. Const......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
102 cases
  • Means v. Baltimore County, No. 20
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • March 4, 1997
    ...298 S.C. 13, 377 S.E.2d 922 (1988); Tennessee, Jose v. Equifax, Inc., 556 S.W.2d 82 (Tenn.1977); Texas, Bailey v. American Gen. Ins. Co., 154 Tex. 430, 279 S.W.2d 315 (1955); Utah, UTAH CODE ANN. § 35-1-45.1 (1996); Vermont, Bedini v. Frost, 678 A.2d 893, 894 (Vt.1996); Virginia, Burlington......
  • Southwire Co. v. George, No. S95G1507
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • June 3, 1996
    ...aff'd, 306 S.C. 46, 410 S.E.2d 248 (1991); Jose v. Equifax, Inc., 556 S.W.2d 82 (Tenn.1977); Bailey v. American Gen. Ins. Co., 154 Tex. 430, 279 S.W.2d 315 (1955); Burlington Mills Corp. v. Hagood, 177 Va. 204, 13 S.E.2d 291 (1941); Consolidated Freightways v. Drake, 678 P.2d 874 (Wyo.1984)......
  • Dunlavey v. Economy Fire and Cas. Co., No. 93-1429
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • January 18, 1995
    ...to distinguish a mental injury from a physical injury because both result in a disability). Compare Bailey v. American Gen. Ins. Co., 154 Tex. 430, 279 S.W.2d 315, 318-19 (1955) (determining that a statute defining "injury" as "damage or harm to the physical structure of the body" included ......
  • Fenwick v. Oklahoma State Penitentiary, No. 69691
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • May 15, 1990
    ...42.23(a) (1987). 30 In Indemnity Ins. Co. v. Loftis, 103 Ga.App. 749, 120 S.E.2d 655-56 (1961). 31 See, Bailey v. American Gen. Ins. Co., 154 Tex. 430, 279 S.W.2d 315, 319 (1955); Larson, "Mental and Nervous Injury in Workmen's Compensation," 23 Vanderbilt L.Rev. 1243, 1252-53 32 K.P. Const......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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