Houston v. Deloach & Deloach, No. 4408.

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtAnderson
Citation663 S.E.2d 85,378 S.C. 543
PartiesJesse HOUSTON, Appellant, v. DELOACH & DELOACH, Respondent.
Docket NumberNo. 4408.
Decision Date10 June 2008
663 S.E.2d 85
378 S.C. 543
Jesse HOUSTON, Appellant,
v.
DELOACH & DELOACH, Respondent.
No. 4408.
Court of Appeals of South Carolina.
Heard June 3, 2008.
Decided June 10, 2008.

[663 S.E.2d 87]

Darrell Thomas Johnson, Jr. and Warren Paul Johnson, both of Hardeeville, for Appellant.

Allison M. Carter, of Mount Pleasant, for Respondent.

ANDERSON, J.


Jesse Houston appeals the circuit court's order affirming the decision of the appellate panel of the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission which denied him benefits for injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident. We affirm.

FACTUAL/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On Saturday, August 23, 2003, Jesse Houston (Claimant) was injured in a motor vehicle accident while riding as a passenger in a commercial dump truck owned by his employer, Deloach & Deloach (Employer). Employer denied the claim, arguing that Claimant was outside the scope of his employment at the time of the accident.

Claimant testified that prior to the injury he had been authorized to train a prospective employee named Marlene Gadson (Gadson) to drive a dump truck. Claimant averred he had been training Gadson for approximately two weeks at the time of the accident. Neither party disputed that Gadson was authorized to train with Claimant or that Gadson was training with Claimant on the morning of the accident. Gadson professed that on the day of the accident she had a disagreement with Claimant and ceased her training at approximately 11:00 a.m. She vouched that Claimant was drinking beer the morning of the accident.

After Gadson exited the dump truck, Claimant picked up Leslie Brown (Brown). Brown had never trained to drive a dump truck prior to the date of the accident, but Claimant allowed her to drive the truck while fully loaded with asphalt that same day. Although the dump truck had only two seats in its cab, Claimant and Brown picked up an unauthorized passenger, Kimberly Blake, at some point during the day. Neither Brown nor Blake was employed by Employer. Brown subsequently wrecked the truck, injuring Claimant.

The testimony conflicted over whether Claimant had permission to allow Brown to drive the truck. Claimant contended he first met Brown on Tuesday, August 19, 2003, and on that day Otis Deloach (Deloach), owner of Employer and Claimant's boss, expressly permitted him to train Brown to drive the dump truck. He advanced that this permission was given in the company of Alfred Ervin and Leroy Stevenson, both employees of Employer. Deloach maintained that he did not give Claimant permission to train Brown, and he never met Brown prior to the August 23, 2003 accident. Brown stated she had not met Claimant prior to the date of the accident. She first heard of Employer the day before the accident.

Alfred Ervin (Ervin) declared he had no knowledge of Deloach giving Claimant permission to train Brown. Ervin substantiated that before he ever drove a loaded dump truck, he trained with an unloaded truck for approximately ten days. Leroy Stevenson asseverated he did not observe Deloach give the Claimant permission to train Brown.

The commissioner issued an order finding Claimant suffered compensable injuries within the course and scope of his employment. An appeal was heard by the appellate panel of the Workers' Compensation Commission. The appellate panel issued a split decision where the majority made the following findings of fact:

1. That the Claimant did not have the authority or permission to allow Ms. Brown to drive the Employer's loaded dump truck at the time of the accident.

2. That skill and training are required to drive a commercial dump truck filled with asphalt.

3. That the Claimant did not have permission to drink alcoholic beverages during the time period he was performing job duties.

663 S.E.2d 88

4. That the Claimant's act in allowing an unauthorized person to drive his Employer's truck constituted an impermissible deviation from his duties, and therefore, the accident did not arise out of the course and scope of his duties.

5. That the Claimant's injuries to his left lower extremity, right arm, and neck did not occur in the course and scope of employment on August 23, 2003, and he is therefore not entitled to benefits under the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Act.

The appellate panel announced its conclusions of law:

1. Under S.C.Code Ann. § 42-1-160, the Claimant did not sustain an injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment.

2. That the Claimant's actions deviated outside the course and scope of employment by using a company vehicle in an inappropriate and unauthorized manner. Boykin v. Prioleau, 255 S.C. 437, 179 S.E.2d 599 (1971).

The circuit court issued an order affirming the appellate panel's denial of benefits. The circuit court denied Claimant's motion to alter or amend judgment pursuant to Rule 59, SCRCP.

ISSUES

1. Does substantial evidence support the appellate panel's finding that Claimant allowed an unauthorized person to drive the Employer's dump truck which resulted in an impermissible deviation from his duties?

2. Did the circuit court and appellate panel commit an error of law in determining Claimant did not sustain an injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment?

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The South Carolina Administrative Procedures Act governs judicial review of a decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission. Lark v. Bi-Lo, Inc., 276 S.C. 130, 134, 276 S.E.2d 304, 306 (1981); Bass v. Isochem, 365 S.C. 454, 467, 617 S.E.2d 369, 376 (Ct.App.2005); Hargrove v. Titan Textile Co., 360 S.C. 276, 288, 599 S.E.2d 604, 610 (Ct.App.2004). Pursuant to the APA, an appellate court's review is limited to deciding whether the full commission's decision is unsupported by substantial evidence or is controlled by some error of law. Grant v. Grant Textiles, 372 S.C. 196, 200, 641 S.E.2d 869, 871 (2007); S.C.Code Ann. § 1-23-380(A)(5) (Supp.2006).

I. Substantial Evidence Standard

The judicial review of the appellate panel's factual findings is governed by the substantial evidence standard. Gadson v. Mikasa Corp., 368 S.C. 214, 221, 628 S.E.2d 262, 266 (Ct.App.2006); Frame v. Resort Servs., Inc., 357 S.C. 520, 527, 593 S.E.2d 491, 494 (Ct.App.2004); Corbin v. Kohler Co., 351 S.C. 613, 617, 571 S.E.2d 92, 94-95 (Ct. App.2002); Lockridge v. Santens of America, Inc., 344 S.C. 511, 515, 544 S.E.2d 842, 844 (Ct.App.2001). The appellate panel's decision must be affirmed if supported by substantial evidence in the record. Shuler v. Gregory Elec., 366 S.C. 435, 440, 622 S.E.2d 569, 571 (Ct.App.2005) (citing Sharpe v. Case Produce, Inc., 336 S.C. 154, 160, 519 S.E.2d 102, 105 (1999)). A reviewing court may not substitute its judgment for the judgment of the agency as to the weight of the evidence on questions of fact. S.C.Code Ann. § 1-23-380(A)(5)(d)(e) (Supp.2006); see also Hall v. United Rentals, Inc., 371 S.C. 69, 77, 636 S.E.2d 876, 881 (Ct.App.2006). However, a reviewing court may reverse or modify a decision of the appellate panel if the findings, inferences, conclusions, or decisions of the panel are "clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative and substantial evidence on the whole record." S.C.Code Ann. § 1-23-380(A)(5)(e) (Supp.2006); Bass v. Kenco Group, 366 S.C. 450, 457, 622 S.E.2d 577, 580 (Ct.App.2005); Bursey v. S.C. Dep't of Health & Envtl. Control, 360 S.C. 135, 141, 600 S.E.2d 80, 84 (Ct.App.2004), aff'd, 369 S.C. 176, 631 S.E.2d 899 (2006).

It is not within the appellate court's province to reverse the appellate panel's factual findings if they are supported by substantial evidence. Etheredge v. Monsanto Co., 349 S.C. 451, 454, 562 S.E.2d 679, 681

663 S.E.2d 89

(Ct.App.2002) (citing Hoxit v. Michelin Tire Corp., 304 S.C. 461, 405 S.E.2d 407 (1991)); Muir v. C.R. Bard, Inc., 336 S.C. 266, 282, 519 S.E.2d 583, 591 (Ct.App.1999). Substantial evidence is not a mere scintilla of evidence, nor the evidence viewed blindly from one side of the case, but is evidence which, considering the record as a whole, would allow reasonable minds to reach the conclusion the administrative agency reached in order to justify its action. Pratt v. Morris Roofing, Inc., 357 S.C. 619, 622, 594 S.E.2d 272, 274 (2004); Jones v. Georgia-Pacific Corp., 355 S.C. 413, 417, 586 S.E.2d 111, 113 (2003); Brown v. Greenwood Mills, Inc., 366 S.C. 379, 392, 622 S.E.2d 546, 554 (Ct.App. 2005); Broughton v. South of the Border, 336 S.C. 488, 495, 520 S.E.2d 634, 637 (Ct.App. 1999). The possibility of drawing two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does not prevent an administrative agency's findings from being supported by substantial evidence. Sharpe, 336 S.C. at 160, 519 S.E.2d at 105; Smith v. NCCI Inc., 369 S.C. 236, 247, 631 S.E.2d 268, 274 (Ct.App.2006); DuRant v. S.C. Dep't of Health & Envtl. Control, 361 S.C. 416, 420, 604 S.E.2d 704, 707 (Ct.App.2004).

The appellate panel is the ultimate fact finder in workers' compensation cases and is not bound by the single commissioner's findings of fact. Isochem, 365 S.C. at 468, 617 S.E.2d at 376; Frame, 357 S.C. at 528, 593 S.E.2d at 495; Muir, 336 S.C. at 281, 519 S.E.2d at 591. The final determination of witness credibility and the weight assigned to the evidence is reserved to the appellate panel. Shealy v. Aiken County, 341 S.C. 448, 455, 535 S.E.2d 438, 442 (2000); Frame, 357 S.C. at 528, 593 S.E.2d at 495. Where there are conflicts in the evidence over a factual issue, the findings of the appellate panel are conclusive. Brown, 366 S.C. at 393, 622 S.E.2d at 554; Etheredge, 349 S.C. at 455, 562 S.E.2d at 681; see also Mullinax v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., 318 S.C. 431, 435, 458 S.E.2d 76, 78 (Ct.App.1995) ("Where the medical evidence conflicts, the findings of fact of the [appellate panel] are conclusive.").

The findings of the appellate panel are presumed correct and will be set aside only if unsupported by substantial evidence. Kenco Group, 366 S.C....

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27 practice notes
  • Coastal Conservation v. Dept. of Health, No. 4450.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 23, 2008
    ...evidence in the record. See Whitworth v. Window World, Inc., 377 S.C. 637, 640, 661 S.E.2d 333, 335 (2008); Houston v. Deloach & Deloach, 378 S.C. 543, 550, 663 S.E.2d 85, 88 (Ct.App.2008); McGriff v. Worsley Cos., Inc., 376 S.C. 103, 109, 654 S.E.2d 856, 859 (Ct.App.2007). However, the rev......
  • Original Blue Ribbon Taxi v. Sc Dmv, No. 4461.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • November 25, 2008
    ...evidence in the record. See Whitworth v. Window World, Inc., 377 S.C. 637, 640, 661 S.E.2d 333, 335 (2008); Houston v. Deloach & Deloach, 378 S.C. 543, 550, 663 S.E.2d 85, 88 (Ct.App.2008); McGriff v. Worsley Cos., Inc., 376 S.C. 103, 109, 654 S.E.2d 856, 859 (Ct.App.2007). "However, the re......
  • Enos v. Doe, No. 4444.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 14, 2008
    ...but should read it in conjunction with the purpose of the whole statute and the policy of the law. Houston v. Deloach & Deloach, 378 S.C. 543, 551, 663 S.E.2d 85, 89 (Ct.App. 2008); see also Mid-State Auto Auction v. Altman, 324 S.C. 65, 69, 476 S.E.2d 690, 692 (1996) (stating that in ascer......
  • Frampton v. S.C. Dep't of Natural Res., Appellate Case No. 2017-001764
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • May 13, 2020
    ...are conflicts in the evidence over a factual issue, the findings of the appellate panel are conclusive." Houston v. Deloach & Deloach , 378 S.C. 543, 551, 663 S.E.2d 85, 89 (Ct. App. 2008) (citations omitted). "Accordingly, a reviewing court may not substitute its judgment for that of the [......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
27 cases
  • Coastal Conservation v. Dept. of Health, No. 4450.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 23, 2008
    ...evidence in the record. See Whitworth v. Window World, Inc., 377 S.C. 637, 640, 661 S.E.2d 333, 335 (2008); Houston v. Deloach & Deloach, 378 S.C. 543, 550, 663 S.E.2d 85, 88 (Ct.App.2008); McGriff v. Worsley Cos., Inc., 376 S.C. 103, 109, 654 S.E.2d 856, 859 (Ct.App.2007). However, the rev......
  • Original Blue Ribbon Taxi v. Sc Dmv, No. 4461.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • November 25, 2008
    ...evidence in the record. See Whitworth v. Window World, Inc., 377 S.C. 637, 640, 661 S.E.2d 333, 335 (2008); Houston v. Deloach & Deloach, 378 S.C. 543, 550, 663 S.E.2d 85, 88 (Ct.App.2008); McGriff v. Worsley Cos., Inc., 376 S.C. 103, 109, 654 S.E.2d 856, 859 (Ct.App.2007). "However, the re......
  • Enos v. Doe, No. 4444.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 14, 2008
    ...but should read it in conjunction with the purpose of the whole statute and the policy of the law. Houston v. Deloach & Deloach, 378 S.C. 543, 551, 663 S.E.2d 85, 89 (Ct.App. 2008); see also Mid-State Auto Auction v. Altman, 324 S.C. 65, 69, 476 S.E.2d 690, 692 (1996) (stating that in ascer......
  • Frampton v. S.C. Dep't of Natural Res., Appellate Case No. 2017-001764
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • May 13, 2020
    ...are conflicts in the evidence over a factual issue, the findings of the appellate panel are conclusive." Houston v. Deloach & Deloach , 378 S.C. 543, 551, 663 S.E.2d 85, 89 (Ct. App. 2008) (citations omitted). "Accordingly, a reviewing court may not substitute its judgment for that of the [......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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