Jackson v. Delphi Automotive Systems, No. 2080990 (Ala. Civ. App. 1/8/2010), No. 2080990.

CourtAlabama Court of Civil Appeals
Writing for the CourtMoore
PartiesMarvin Jackson v. Delphi Automotive Systems
Decision Date08 January 2010
Docket NumberNo. 2080990.

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Marvin Jackson
Delphi Automotive Systems
No. 2080990.
Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama.
January 8, 2010.

Appeal from Limestone Circuit Court (CV-06-159).

MOORE, Judge.

Marvin Jackson ("the employee") appeals from a summary judgment entered in favor of Delphi Automotive Systems by the Limestone Circuit Court ("the trial court") on Jackson's

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claims for workers' compensation benefits. We reverse and remand.

Facts and Procedural History

On March 27, 2006, the employee filed a complaint in the trial court, seeking workers' compensation benefits from Delphi Saginaw Steering, Delphi Corporation, Delphi Automotive Systems Human Resources, LLC, Delphi Automotive Systems, LLC, Delphi Automotive Systems Services, LLC, and a number of fictitiously named parties (hereinafter sometimes collectively referred to as "the defendants"). In his complaint, the employee alleged that he was an employee of Delphi Saginaw Steering and that he had suffered an injury to his back in a work-related incident on or about March 14, 2004, by lifting and transporting large, heavy buckets of paint. On April 12, 2006, the employee filed an amended complaint with verification. The employee's amended complaint also referred to a March 14, 2004, injury.

On April 25, 2006, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the employee's complaint, asserting that it was not verified in accordance with § 25-5-88, Ala. Code 1975.1 A

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notation on the case-action-summary sheet indicates that the trial court denied the motion to dismiss on April 26, 2006. On June 6, 2006, "Delphi Automotive Systems" ("the employer") filed a motion for a summary judgment.2 The employer argued that the two-year statute of limitations found in § 25-5-80, Ala. Code 1975, barred the employee's claim. In an affidavit filed with the motion, Herman Banks, the employer's workers' compensation field representative, stated that he had reviewed certain records regarding the employee's claim, which were attached to the affidavit, and that those records revealed that the employee had timely reported the claimed injury to the employer but that the employer had never paid any compensation to the employee for that injury.

The employee responded to the summary-judgment motion on July 20, 2006. In his response, the employee moved to strike Banks's affidavit and the exhibits attached thereto. The employee further moved the court, pursuant to Rule 56(f), Ala. R. Civ. P., to continue the summary-judgment hearing until he

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could complete discovery. Additionally, the employee argued that the employer had paid him full pay for lighter work, which, he asserted, had served to toll the statute of limitations. The employee further filed his own motion for a summary judgment on July 20, 2006. On July 25, 2006, the trial court granted the employee's Rule 56(f) motion by directing the parties to proceed with discovery limited to the issue of factors potentially tolling the statute of limitations.

On April 23, 2007, the employee filed a motion seeking a judgment by default against Delphi Saginaw Steering, Delphi Corporation, Delphi Automotive Systems Human Resources, LLC, Delphi Automotive Systems, LLC, and Delphi Automotive Systems Services, LLC, for failure to file an answer or other pleading or to otherwise defend the action. The employer filed an objection to the employee's motion, asserting that the correct name of the employee's employer at the time of his injury was "Delphi Automotive Systems" and that, "[t]o the extent necessary, all other Defendants join in the motion for [a] summary judgment filed previously by [the employee's]

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employer." The record indicates that the trial court never ruled upon the motion for a default judgment.

On June 26, 2007, the employee filed a second amended verified complaint. In that complaint, the employee realleged that he had been injured in the course of his employment with the employer on March 14, 2004. The employee further alleged that he had "re-injured his back and other bodily parts on March 30, 2004, March 3, 2005, and April 11, 2005." The employee asserted that those injuries had also occurred from the employee's frequent stooping and climbing while painting and lifting and transporting paint. The employee stated that those "subsequent injuries and accidents stem from the original incident and constitute cumulative physical stress, accidental injury and/or gradual injury." The employee also alleged that his last day of work was approximately May 17, 2005, and that the employer had continued to pay full compensation and wages to the employee up until that date even though he had been placed on restrictive duty.

Also on June 26, 2007, the employee filed an amended response to the employer's summary-judgment motion in which he asserted, in addition to his original arguments, that, because

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the last date of injury was April 11, 2005, and his injuries constituted cumulative-physical-stress injuries, his claims were not barred by the statute of limitations. The employee attached to his response his affidavit, in which he stated that, since the injury, the employer had been paying him full pay for lighter work.

On July 30, 2007, the employer filed a motion to strike the employee's second amended complaint or, in the alternative, a motion for a summary judgment. The employer argued that the employee's second amended complaint alleged new and separate claims and was due to be stricken. The employer argued further that the employee's original complaint and his two amended complaints were all due to be dismissed because they were barred by the two-year statute of limitations. The employee responded to the motion to strike on October 30, 2007, by, among other things, filing the affidavit of Dr. Henry M. Gaillard. Dr. Gaillard stated in his affidavit that, in his professional medical opinion, the injury to the lower back suffered by the employee "is a continuing stress injury or a cumulative stress injury which has resulted from repetitive motion, during the course of his

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employment." Dr. Gaillard indicated that, in his opinion, the March 30, 2004, the March 3, 2005, and the April 11, 2005, incidents were recurrences of the employee's first injury on March 14, 2004, that they were not aggravations of that first injury, and that they did not contribute independently to the employee's disability. On December 6, 2007, the trial court granted the employer's summary-judgment motion with the following notation on the case-action-summary sheet: "[T]his Court finds [the employee's] causes of action to be time-barred."

The employee filed a notice of appeal to this court on December 20, 2007. On August 21, 2008, this court issued an order dismissing the employee's appeal as being from a nonfinal judgment because the employee's claims against Delphi Saginaw Steering, Delphi Corporation, Delphi Automotive Systems Human Resources, LLC, and Delphi Automotive Systems Services, LLC, had not been adjudicated in the December 20, 2007, summary-judgment order. On May 8, 2009, the trial court entered a final judgment, including findings of fact and conclusions of law, in which it determined that "Delphi Automotive Systems" was the employee's employer at all

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relevant times and in which it entered a summary judgment in favor of the employer and dismissed all other named defendants. The employee filed a postjudgment motion on May 26, 2009; the trial court denied that motion on May 28, 2009. The employee filed his notice of appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court on July 7, 2009; that court transferred the appeal to this court for lack of appellate jurisdiction on July 24, 2009.

Standard of Review

"This court's review of legal issues in a workers' compensation case is without a presumption of correctness. See § 25-5-81 (e) (1), Ala. Code 1975, and Flesher v. Saginaw Div., Gen. Motors Corp., 689 So. 2d 113 (Ala. Civ. App. 1996). In Bailey v. R.E. Garrison Trucking Co., 834 So. 2d 122, 123 (Ala. Civ. App. 2002), this court reviewed...

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