Gray v. Employers Mut. Liability Ins. Co.

Decision Date14 November 1952
Citation64 So.2d 650
CourtFlorida Supreme Court

M. Dudley Burton, Miami, for appellant.

Brown, Dean & Hill, Miami, for Employers Mut. Liability Ins. Co.

Rodney Durrance, Tallahassee, for Florida Industrial Commission.

ROBERTS, Justice.

This is an appeal in a workman's compensation case in which the appellant sought compensation for an injury occurring in the following manner: The appellant was employed as a waitress in a restaurant and, as a part of her duties, was required to cook waffles. The waffle batter was kept in a five-gallon can and was stored on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator until needed. Ordinarily, the chore of lifting the five-gallon can from the refrigerator and transferring a portion of the batter to a smaller container was performed by a bus boy; the appellant did, however, on occasion and in the absence of a bus boy, perform this work herself. In January of 1951, the appellant picked up the can of waffle batter and suffered an injury to her right arm. She reported the injury to the head waitress, but did not lose any time from work, nor see a doctor, as she thought 'it would cure itself.' Later, on April 6, 1951, she was again obliged to lift the can of waffle batter and this time felt a sharp pain in her right arm and was unable to hold the can. She immediately sought the services of a doctor and was given a series of deep X-ray, and other treatments, and was able to return to work on April 30, 1951.

The Deputy Commissioner found that appellant was temporarily totally disabled from April 9, 1951, to April 30, 1951. He denied compensation, however, on the ground that there was no 'accident' preceding the injury; that appellant did not 'slip, fall or make a mis-step,' and that, therefore, the appellant's claim was not compensable, since 'the injury itself cannot suffice for, or constitute, the accident', citing Brooks-Scanlon, Inc., v. Lee, Fla., 44 So.2d 650, and Le Viness v. Mauer, Fla., 53 So.2d 113. The order of the Deputy Commissioner was affirmed by the Full Commission and, in turn, by the Circuit Court in and for Dade County.

The statement that 'the injury itself cannot sufficient for, or constitute, the accident', appearing in the Brooks-Scanlon case, supra, and a few other opinions of this court, was perhaps as unfortunate use of language. It was not intended that such statement should be construed as requiring a showing of an unexpected cause of the injury, such as a slip, fall or misstep; it was intended only to require the claimant to make a showing of some event or circumstances connected with his work to which his injury can be directly attributed, in accordance with the rule that the claimant is required to show that the accident or injury happened not only in the course of claimant's employment but arose out of it. Travelers Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 147 Fla. 210, 3 So.2d 381.

Thus, in the Brooks-Scanlon case, supra, where the claimant was working as a laborer at a sawmill, lifting boards and 'at 4:00 in the afternoon placed his hand on the pit of his stomach, doubled up, worked for one minute and fell to the ground' with a cerebral hemorrhage, there appeared to be no direct causal connection between the work being performed and the injury sustained; thus, the claimant failed to carry his burden of showing that the injury arose out of his employment. Similarly, in Le Viness v. Mauer, Fla., 53 So.2d 113, the claimant was digging a footing for a house and experienced a sharp shooting pain in his chest. These pains continued intermittently for eight days and, on the ninth day, he sustained a coronary thrombosis. Again, there was a failure to prove a direct causal connection between the employment and the injury. The same failure of proof existed in the cases of Cleary Bros. Const. Co. v. Nobbles, 156 Fla. 408, 23 So.2d 525, and City of Tallahassee v. Roberts, 155 Fla. 815, 21 So.2d 712, relied upon by appellees in support of their contention that appellant was not injured 'by accident.' The cases of McNeill v. Thompson, Fla., 53 So.2d 868, and Peterson v. City Commission, City of Jacksonville, Fla., 44 So.2d 423, are much closer cases than those heretofore discussed, but could have been decided on the same premise.

We wish to make clear, however, that we do not interpret the Workmen's Compensation Law, F.S.A. § 440.01 et seq., as requiring that an injury 'by accident' proceed from an unexpected cause. Section 440.02(19) of the law defines 'accident' as 'an unexpected or unusual event, happening suddenly.' The Thorndike-Barnhart Dictionary defines 'event' as '1. a happening, 2. result; outcome.' To like effect are the definitions given in The Oxford English Dictionary and Bouv. Law Dict., Rawle's Third Revision, p. 101. It is enough, then, if there is an unexpected result, even though there was no unexpected cause, such as a slip, fall or misstep, in order to constitute an 'accident' within the meaning of the Workmen's Compensation Law; and insofar as the McNeill and Peterson cases, supra, hold that an injury is not compensable if it happens while the claimant is performing his ordinary work in the usual manner, these decisions are hereby modified, and we re-affirm the rule laid down in Duff Hotel Co. v. Ficara, 150 Fla. 442, 7 So.2d 790, that an unexpected injury received in the ordinary performance of a duty in the usual manner is an injury 'by accident' within the purview of the Workmen's Compensation Law, without the showing of anything fortuitous.

Thus, in Crawford v. Benrus Market, Fla., 40 So.2d 889, the claimant was unloading meat from a truck when the weight of the meat pulled him suddenly forward, and he felt something snap in his lower back. And in Charles A. Stewart Co. v. Dodson, 153 Fla. 693, 15 So.2d 481, the claimant suffered a back injury when attempting to pick up and load a field box of citrus fruit on a moving truck. In common parlance, both of these mishaps would certainly be termed 'accidents,' and this court properly held that the injuries in each case were compensable. It is the unexpected and unintentional effect of the strain or exertion that is covered by the Workmen's Compensation Law as an injury 'by accident,' and a literal showing of an 'accident' such a slip, fall or misstep is not a prerequisite to recovery.

In the instant case, it was clearly shown that the appellant received an injury to her arm as the unexpected result of attempting to lift the heavy five-gallon can of waffle batter from the bottom of the refrigerator. It was, therefore, an injury 'by accident' within the meaning of the Workmen's Compensation Law, and it was error to deny her compensation therefor.

Accordingly, the judgment appealed from should be and it is hereby reversed and the cause remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Reversed and remanded.

SEBRING, C. J., and MATHEWS and DREW, JJ., concur.

On Rehearing


On rehearing granted, we have reconsidered this cause in the light of briefs filed and further oral argument at the bar of this Court, and have determined to adhere to our former opinion.

ROBERTS, C. J., and TERRELL and SEBRING, JJ., concur.

HOBSON, J., concurs specially.

THOMAS, MATHEWS and DREW, JJ., dissent.

HOBSON, Justice (concurring specially).

I am constrained to agree with and to concur in the original opinion by Mr. Chief Justice ROBERTS because the interpretation which he places upon the legislative definition of an 'accident' contained in Section 440.02(19) cannot be characterized as a strained construction when considered in the light of the purposes to be accomplished by the Workmen's Compensation Act; the presumption declared in Section 440.26(1) that, absent substantial evidence to the contrary, 'the claim comes within the provisions of this chapter'; and our repeated pronouncements that the Act should be construed liberally and all doubts resolved in favor of the claimant.

Moreover, it is my view that a careful analysis of Section 440.02(19) discloses a legislative intent that every injury arising out of and in the course of employment should be held compensable if the injury was preceded by or simultaneous with an 'event' which happened suddenly and was unexpected or unusual, unless, as expressly excepted by the statute, it be 'A mental or nervous injury due to fright or excitement only or disability or death due to the accidental acceleration or aggravation of a venereal disease or of a disease due to the habitual use of alcohol or narcotic drugs * * *.' Every injury is the result of an unexpected and unusual event, happening suddenly, unless it is deliberately self-inflicted or designedly imposed by another. Thus, in the instant case, the claimant knew that the five-gallon can of waffle batter was heavy, but she had no reason to suspect from experience or otherwise that the lifting of the can and the pouring of batter from in into another receptacle would result in a disabling injury to her. Her injury was, then, preceded by, or was simultaneous with, an 'event' which happened suddenly, to wit, the over-exertion of the muscles of her arm; and it cannot be gainsaid that this was unexpected and unusual. Consequently, the injury which she sustained should be held to be compensable.

MATTHEWS, Justice (dissenting).

This is an appeal from the order of the Circuit Judge affirming the order of the Industrial Commission which had affirmed the order and findings of a Deputy Commissioner.

The claimant was seriously injured and the primary question to be determined is whether or not the lifting of a can of waffle batter was an accident which produced the injury. The Deputy Commissioner found from the evidence 'the lifting of the can of waffle batter was one of the occasional duties of the claimant over a period of four years.' In support of his findings, the Deputy Commissioner cited...

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