Jose v. Equifax, Inc.

Citation556 S.W.2d 82
PartiesRussell E. JOSE, Appellant, v. EQUIFAX, INC., Appellee. 556 S.W.2d 82
Decision Date03 October 1977
CourtSupreme Court of Tennessee

J. Gregory O'Connor, Bond, Carpenter & O'Connor, Knoxville, for appellant.

Arthur G. Seymour, Jr., W. Kyle Carpenter, Knoxville, for appellee; Frantz, McConnell & Seymour, Knoxville, of counsel.

OPINION

HARBISON, Justice.

In this workmen's compensation case the employer's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim was sustained by the trial judge. The allegations of the complaint are quite brief and are very general in their nature. The record does not indicate that any attempt was made to amend them either before or after the employer's motion was ruled upon.

The complaint alleges an employer-employee relationship under the workmen's compensation law, notice to the employer, and an entitlement to disability benefits together with medical and hospital expenses. The factual allegations upon which recovery is claimed, however, are contained entirely in the following paragraph:

"That up until approximately May, 1976, Plaintiff was employed by Defendant as a Claims Director and Field Representative for many years. That in those capacities Plaintiff alleges that he was exposed to a tremendous amount of pressure and tension in order to meet the obligations placed upon him as an employee of the Defendant. That as a result of the pressures and tensions of his work Plaintiff alleges that he sustained a severe psychiatric illness. That furthermore, to alleviate his psychiatric problems the Plaintiff developed an habitual alcoholic problem. That furthermore, as a result of his illnesses, Plaintiff was treated at the Peninsula Center Psychiatric Hospital on several occasions."

There is no delineation of the duties which the employee was required to perform, nor of the nature of the "psychiatric illness" alleged.

Predicated upon these general and conclusory allegations, which were not amended in the face of a motion challenging their legal sufficiency, the employee, appellant here, asks this Court to hold as a matter of law that a claim for workmen's compensation benefits has been stated. This we are not prepared to do.

In support of his assignments of error, appellant has cited a lengthy article dealing with mental and nervous injury in workmen's compensation cases written by Professor Arthur Larson, appearing at 23 Vand.L.Rev. 1243 (1970). The Court is urged to hold that a mental stimulus causing nervous injury is sufficient to allow workmen's compensation benefits, and to leave to the trier of fact the matter of the sufficiency of medical evidence and of causation.

This Court on several occasions has dealt with the question of mental illnesses, such as traumatic neurosis, in workmen's compensation cases. In the case of Chapman v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 221 Tenn. 376, 426 S.W.2d 760 (1968), the Court dealt with a claim that anxiety and worry over job termination caused or precipitated an employee's fatal heart attack. The Court found the medical evidence insufficient to sustain the allegations. It also found the stress or worry involved was that usual to the termination of any temporary employment and not unique to the particular job.

In the case of Buck & Simmons Auto & Electric Supply Co. v. Kesterson, 194 Tenn. 115, 250 S.W.2d 39 (1952), an award of total and permanent disability was allowed as a result of traumatic neurosis. In that case the employee was struck by a vehicle and sustained some injury, including a slight laceration, to his neck. There were no broken bones, however, and no evidence of any other serious physical injury. Nevertheless from conflicting medical testimony, the Court concluded that there was sufficient evidence to establish the authenticity of the traumatic neurosis and its permanence. See also Pocahontas Fuel Co. v. Orick, 218 Tenn. 514, 404 S.W.2d 500 (1966); McKenzie v. Campbell and Dann Mfg. Co., 209 Tenn. 475, 354 S.W.2d 440 (1962). In the case of Minton v. Leonard, 219 Tenn. 642, 412 S.W.2d 886 (1967) the Court recognized that there could be recovery for traumatic neurosis resulting from a back injury, but a new trial was ordered because of insufficiency of the testimony as to whether the condition was permanent. In the case of Gluck Brothers, Inc. v. Pollard, 221 Tenn. 383, 426 S.W.2d 763 (1968) the employee suffered mental illness diagnosed as chronic undifferentiated...

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    ...Stokes v. First Nat'l Bank, 298 S.C. 13, 377 S.E.2d 922 (Ct.App.1988), aff'd, 306 S.C. 46, 410 S.E.2d 248 (1991); Jose v. Equifax, Inc., 556 S.W.2d 82 (Tenn.1977); Bailey v. American Gen. Ins. Co., 154 Tex. 430, 279 S.W.2d 315 (1955); Burlington Mills Corp. v. Hagood, 177 Va. 204, 13 S.E.2d......
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    ...§ 28-34-2(36) (1996); South Carolina, Stokes v. First Nat'l Bank, 298 S.C. 13, 377 S.E.2d 922 (1988); Tennessee, Jose v. Equifax, Inc., 556 S.W.2d 82 (Tenn.1977); Texas, Bailey v. American Gen. Ins. Co., 154 Tex. 430, 279 S.W.2d 315 (1955); Utah, UTAH CODE ANN. § 35-1-45.1 (1996); Vermont, ......
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