Federal Mut. Liability Ins. Co. v. Industrial Commission of Arizona

Decision Date27 December 1926
Docket NumberCivil 2533
Citation252 P. 512,31 Ariz. 224
CourtArizona Supreme Court

Original proceeding for Writ of Review to set aside award of Industrial Commission in re George Roberts Deceased. Award set aside.

Messrs Goodman & Melliss (Mr. Harry I. Howard and Mr. N. T. M Melliss, of Counsel), for Plaintiff.

Mr. Harold A. Elliott and Mr. James S. Casey, for Defendants.



George Roberts died on the thirteenth day of December, 1925, as the result of injuries received in the course of his employment while working for the Salt River Valley Water Users' Association. The employer was insured against liability under the Workmen's Compensation Act of Arizona (Laws 1925, chapter 83), which we will refer to hereafter as the act, by the Federal Mutual Liability Insurance Company, hereinafter called petitioner. The father of the deceased made application to the Industrial Commission of Arizona, hereinafter called the Commission, for an award of compensation, asserting that both parents of the deceased were partially dependent on the latter for their support. Upon a hearing before the Commission, it was stipulated that deceased and his brother, Guy Roberts, were in the receipt of $104 per month each at the time of the former's death, and that both of them contributed equally to the support of their parents. The father also testified at the hearing that these contributions amounted to about ninety per cent of the wages received by each son; that this amount was turned over to the mother, and from it she returned to the boys such sums as they needed for personal expenses, and provided them with board and lodging. The exact amount returned to the boys does not appear in the testimony. The Commission, on the twenty-fifth day of March, 1926, made a compensation award to the mother and father of the deceased of a commuted death benefit in the sum of $2,080, payable by petitioner, together with reimbursement for funeral expenses not to exceed $150. Petitioner moved for a rehearing before the Commission on April 13th. This application was denied, and thereupon petitioner secured from this court a writ of certiorari under the provisions of section 90 of the act. After oral argument was had and briefs filed, the case was submitted to this court for decision.

The principal contention of petitioner is that the Commission erred in its award for the reason that the same was made by it under paragraph 7 of section 70 of the act, when, as a matter of law, it should have been made under paragraph 6 of said section 70. In its answer to the writ the Commission raises three propositions: First, that an award under facts like these set forth above is governed by paragraph 7 instead of by paragraph 6; second, that, if it is so governed, since petitioner did not raise the question of the correctness of the computation of the award, if paragraph 7 applies, at the hearing before the Commission, it cannot now be raised in this court; and, third, that, even if such question can be raised, if there is any substantial evidence supporting the award, this court will refuse to disturb the Commission's ruling.

This is the first case which has come before us asking for a construction of the Workmen's Compensation Act since the Commission has begun to function. It is of much importance as well to the Commission as to those entitled to compensation that both a definite rule of procedure and an interpretation of the substantive portions of the act should be established as soon as possible. We therefore discuss and determine the propositions presented by the Commission in their inverse order.

This court has held repeatedly and consistently that, when a case comes before it from any inferior court, where the lower court has made findings of facts on conflicting evidence, it will not review such findings, and, when a judgment has been rendered without express findings of fact, if there is reasonable evidence in the record from which findings could be made which would support the judgment, it will be presumed that the trial court did make such findings, and we will not reverse the judgment on the facts. Blackford v. Neaves, 23 Ariz. 501, 205 P. 587; Thomas v. Newcomb, 26 Ariz. 47, 221 P. 226; Brown v. Peterson, 27 Ariz. 233 P. 895.

It is true the Commission is not a court. Alabam's Freight Co. v. Hunt, 29 Ariz. 419, 242 P. 658. It is nevertheless a tribunal established by the legislature, and having bestowed upon it the right to determine questions of fact and to apply the existing law thereto in matters within the jurisdiction conferred upon it by the act. While under section 90 of the act this court may review the evidence, we think it is but logical, just and reasonable that the rulings of such a tribunal, made as the result of a hearing in which all the interested parties have appeared and have been allowed to present such evidence as was relevant and material to the question involved, is entitled to the same respect as that of a trial court. Morgan v. Butte Central Min. & Mill Co., 58 Mont. 633, 194 P. 496.

We therefore hold that in such cases the same rule will apply to findings of fact, actual or presumptive, by the Commission as applies to actual or presumed findings of fact by a trial court or the verdict of a jury under the same circumstances.

The next question is whether or not this court may review a question not fairly presented to the Commission at its hearing for its decision. There are two provisions in the act for the review of the action of the Commission, one which applies to its orders and the other to its final awards. The first is in the superior court and the second in the Supreme Court. Section 14 of the act provides:

"No action, proceedings, or suit to set aside, or amend any order of the commission, or to enjoin the enforcement thereof, shall be brought unless the plaintiff shall have applied to the commission for a hearing thereon at the time and as provided in section 13, and in the petition therefor shall have raised every issue in such action. . . . " (Italics ours.)

Sections 23 and 24 cover actions to review orders of the Commission, and section 24 contains the following provision:

"I. If, upon the trial of such action, it shall appear that all issues arising in such action have not theretofore been presented to the commission in the petition filed, . . . the court shall, . . . transmit to the commission a full statement of such issues not adequately considered, and shall stay further proceedings . . . upon the receipt of such statement the commission shall consider the issues not theretofore considered, . . . and shall report its order thereon to said court, . . . the court shall thereupon order the pleading to be so amended as to raise the issues resulting . . . and shall thereafter proceed with such action. . . ."

While this applies only to actions in the superior court to review orders of the Commission, and not awards thereof, which are only reviewable by the Supreme Court, we are nevertheless of the opinion that common sense requires the application of the same doctrine by us. It is well said that "justice delayed is only half justice." The act is a highly remedial one, and, if proceedings under it are delayed unnecessarily, it fails to a greater or lesser extent to fulfill the purpose for which it was intended. Nothing could be more calculated to defeat a correct and speedy application of its principles than to allow an appellant to raise in the courts issues which the Commission had no opportunity of passing on. We therefore hold that this court will not, in a proceeding brought under section 90 of the act, review or consider any matter which was not fairly presented to the Commission for its determination.

This brings us to the last question, which is whether or not the Commission applied the proper section of the act in computing the award in question. The death benefit clauses of section 70 of the act read as follows:

"(A) Death Benefits.

"If the injury causes death, the compensation shall be...

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