In re Crawford

Decision Date14 July 1944
Docket Number15662.
PartiesIn re CRAWFORD. CRAWFORD et al. v. TOWN OF WINNSBORO et al.
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court

Wise & Whaley, of Columbia, and T. K. McDonald, of Winnsboro for appellants.

C T. Graydon and F. Ehrlich Thomson, both of Columbia, and J Albert Merritt, Jr., of West Columbia , for respondents.

BAKER Chief Justice.

George Crawford, deceased, a policeman of the Town of Winnsboro, was found dead in the town police station at about 11 o'clock on the night of February 15, 1941, at which hour, according to his schedule of employment he was understood to be engaged in the performance of his duties. In February, 1942 (nearly a year later), the respondents for the first time presented to the South Carolina Industrial Commission a claim for compensation for Crawford's death under the Workmen's Compensation Act. The matter was heard before Commissioner Hyatt who, after holding three hearings, on June 17, 1942, made an award in favor of the claimants. From this award the employer and its insurer, appellants, appealed to the full Commission. Six successive dates of hearing beginning in July, 1942, were designated by the Commission the hearing being continued each time at the instance of the respondents. The appeal was finally argued before the Commission on December 17, 1942. On January 15, 1943, a majority of the Commission, in an opinion written by Honorable John M. Wise, Chairman, reversed the hearing Commissioner and denied the claim for compensation, on the ground that the decedent had committed suicide. By letter, and subsequently by petition, both addressed to the Commission, the respondents asked for a rehearing of the case and for permission to supplement the evidence by additional testimony. This application was in due course granted, and the case was referred back to the hearing Commissioner to take additional testimony. Thereafter, but in due time, the respondents gave due notice of intention to appeal to the Circuit Court, but in said notice expressly reserved their rights under the order granting a rehearing.

Pursuant to the order granting a rehearing, additional testimony was taken before the hearing Commissioner, whereupon, on June 14, 1943, the full Commission (the membership of which had changed in part in the meanwhile) set aside the award and opinion made and filed January 15, 1943, and reinstated the award of compensation made in the first instance by the hearing Commissioner.

The appellants then appealed to the Circuit Court from the June 14, 1943, order of the Commission confirming the award of compensation. The matter came up for hearing in the Circuit Court before Honorable A. L. Gaston, resident Judge of the Sixth Circuit, who heard arguments on numerous exceptions supporting the appeals above referred to. The conclusions reached by Judge Gaston, as far as pertinent in the present appeal, are: (1) The opinion of the Commission by Honorable John M. Wise, refusing compensation on the ground that the decedent died as the result of "wilful suicide", was amply supported by the testimony, and that therefore except for subsequent proceedings in the cause, the same would not be disturbed; (2) that it was within the power of the full Commission to grant a rehearing, and that having done so, the Commission had power to reconsider the case in the light of the additional testimony taken and make a new and different award; (3) that the second award made by the full Commission, granting compensation to the respondents, had sufficient support in the testimony and should therefore be sustained.

The case comes before this Court on twenty-seven exceptions, which the appellants have reduced to six stated "Questions Involved." However, the only questions necessary to be considered in the disposition of the present appeal are those numbered 1, 2, 3, and 5.

Questions 3 and 5 are stated as follows:

"3. Is the Industrial Commission authorized or empowered to grant a re-hearing or to admit additional evidence in a case after the Full Commission has rendered an Opinion and Award adjudicating the case on the facts?"
"5. Did respondents' motion for a new trial, or for a rehearing and the introduction of further evidence, meet the requirements, necessary for such a motion, in force and effect in South Carolina?"

In logical order these issues should be disposed of first.

If the Industrial Commission has the power, as asserted by respondents, to grant a rehearing after an opinion and award have been filed by the full Commission, and on the basis of the testimony taken upon such rehearing, reverse its conclusions in a new opinion and award, such power must be found expressed in the Workmen's Compensation Act, or, if not there expressed, must be held to constitute an implied power arising out of the judicial functions of the Commission. If the power is held to be an implied power, it would then of course have to be exercised in conformity with the rules of procedure laid down for the exercise by courts generally of the implied power to grant new trials on the ground of after discovered evidence. To imply the existence of such a power on any other basis would be productive of never-ending uncertainty as to the conclusiveness of an award made by the Commission.

Dealing first with the question whether the power is granted by any provision of the Workmen's Compensation Act, we find, as stated in appellants' brief, that the only Sections of the Act which have any possible relevance to the subject are those numbered in the Code of 1942 as Sections 7035-49, 7035-62, and 7035-63.

Section 7035-49 by its express terms permits and authorizes the review of an award only on the ground of "a change in condition," and empowers the Commission to make an award "ending, diminishing, or increasing the compensation previously awarded," so obviously this section is not apposite to the facts of this case.

Section 7035-62 providing for a review of the award by the Commission, "and, if good grounds be shown therefor, reconsider the evidence, receive further evidence, rehear the parties or their representatives, and, if proper, amend the award," of course has reference to a review of the award of the hearing Commissioner, and has no relation to a rehearing, a new trial or the introduction of further evidence, following action of the full Commission after a review of the award of the hearing Commissioner.

Section 7035-63 provides for an appeal, after the award of the full Commission, from such award, to the Court of Common Pleas, for errors of law, but contains no authority for the full Commission to grant a rehearing or receive further evidence following its opinion and award on a review of the hearing Commissioner's award.

In Riddle v. Fairforest Finishing Co. et al., 198 S.C. 419, 18 S.E.2d 341, 343, it is said:

"The clear intent of this whole Act is to provide a right of appeal, and the machinery for perfecting that appeal is found in Sections 59 and 60 of the Act. (These Sections appear in the Code, as Sections 7035-62 and 7035-63).
Clearly, it was the intent of the Legislature to provide that the procedure should be akin to that of a Court, as, for instance, an appeal from an inferior Court to the Court of Common Pleas, and an appeal from that Court to the Supreme Court.
Thus, it seems to us made plain, that the intention of the Legislature was to provide for the disposition of a claim made to the Industrial Commission by the orderly process of a hearing before a Single Commissioner, or a deputy appointed by the Full Commission; a review, by the Full Commission, of the Single Commissioner's award; and appeal from an award by the Full Commission to the Court of Common Pleas; and an appeal from the Court of Common Pleas to the Supreme Court."

And in McDonald et al. v. Palmetto Theatres et al., 196 S.C. 38, 11 S.E.2d 444, 448, the Court quotes with approval from 71 C.J. 1205, the following: "'*** Where the compensation act provides for the review of the decisions of a compensation commission, such review may be limited by the express terms of the compensation act itself or by necessary implication; and where the compensation act prescribes a particular method for the review of the orders or decrees of compensation commissions, that method may be the exclusive method of review."'

Turning to the rules of the South Carolina Industrial Commission, we find that Rule No. 16 provides for the taking of additional testimony "when, in the discretion of the Commission additional evidence is necessary for the completion of the record in a case of review ***." In such a case the Commission may order the taking of the additional testimony before one Commissioner. This rule then goes on to impose in substance and in detail, the identical prerequisites which govern the granting of a new trial by courts of general jurisdiction. The language of the rule proceeds as follows: "When either the employer or employee seeks to introduce new evidence at a review, application must be made for the introduction of new evidence; such application must be in writing and filed with the Commission and a copy with accompanying affidavits furnished the opposite side, and it must be shown that the new evidence is of such a character as would follow the common law governing the admission of newly discovered evidence in the application for a new trial. The evidence sought to be introduced must not be evidence of cumulative or impeaching character, but must be of such a character as likely would have produced a different result had the evidence been procurable at the first hearing. It must be shown that the evidence was not known to the party who desires to introduce same at the time of the hearing before the Commissioner,...

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