Mississippi Ass'n of Ins. Agents, Inc. v. Seay's Dependents, 45056

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Citation218 So.2d 413
Docket NumberNo. 45056,45056
Decision Date06 January 1969

Cox, Dunn & Clark, william H. Cox, Jr., Jackson, for appellant.

Heidelberg, Woodliff & Franks, Sam E. Scott, Jackson, for appellee.

RODGERS, Justice.

This is a workmen's compensation case appealed to this Court from a judgment of the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County, Mississippi, affirming an order allowing the dependents of Clant M. Seay, Deceased, compensation for death benefits of $17.50 per week for 450 weeks, or until the sum of $12,500 has been paid.

The Mississippi Association of Insurance Agents, Inc. appealed to the Circuit Court, and the dependents of Clant M. Seay (hereafter called Claimants) cross-appealed that part of the Workmen's Compensation Commission's order wherein the Commission found and determined that the deceased suffered from a preexisting disease which contributed 50% to his death, for which an apportionment was allowed in the weekly benefits.

The Mississippi Association of Insurance Agents, Inc. (hereafter called Appellant) contends that:

(1) The Workmen's Compensation Commission erroneously determined that the claimants were entitled to death benefits because

(a) the award was based upon the erroneous conclusion that the death of

Clant M. Seay arose our of in the course of this employment contrary to law, and

(b) the award was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence; and

(2) The Commission was in error in requiring the payment of $17.50 weekly for a period of 450 weeks, based upon 50% apportionment, because the Commission did not apportion the total benefits of $12,500 as well as the amount payable each week.

The employer, appellant here, contends on appeal that the facts in this case do not show causal connection between Mr. Seay's work and his heart attack, and that the order of the Workmen's Compensation Commission is contrary to any substantial evidence introduced before the attorney referee.

The record shows that mr. Seay, fifty-three years of age, was employed as secretary-manager of the Mississippi Association of Insurance Agents, and that he died of a heart attack while attending an insurance convention in Chicago, Illinois.

In addition to his regular position of employment, Mr. Seay was, in 1965, secretary to the Southern Agents Conference, such conference consisting of insurance agents from thirteen southern states. The conference met once a year, rotating from state to state. In 1965 it was held in Mississippi. Being secretary to the conference, Seay coordinated the convention which was held in April of that year. He prepared the convention's agenda, made all necessary arrangements with the hotel in which it was held, and generally handled all necessary details. In March, just prior to the Southern Agents convention, Seay appeared to be in an exhausted condition. He looked flushed, occasionally slept at work, perspired heavily, coughed frequently, and often had trouble breathing.

After the Southern Agents convention, Seay's doctor advised him to go to bed or to a hospital. Seay went home to bed and stayed out of his office for two weeks, but he continued to transact the business of his employer by telephone from his home. After this two week period of convalescence, Seay returned to work. He found a heavier work load than usual, because many things had been put off due to the planning and coordinating of the Southern Agents Conference. Nevertheless, Seay continued his work, his main duty at that time being the planning of the convention, in June, of the Mississippi Association of Insurance Agents, to be held on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. At one point between the Southern Agents convention in April and the Mississippi convention in June, Seay worked twenty-six straight days without taking off. He made all the arrangements for the Mississippi convention.

After the convention in June, Mr. Seay remained at work regularly until he left to go to the Chicago convention on July 16. He had no supervisory duties at that convention. However, he did participate in all the meetings, and at the last meeting of the convention, less than twenty-four hours before his death, Mr. Seay participated in a heated debate over an issue at the convention, and he was observed pounding the table in front of him in an effort to make his point. After the convention ended that afternoon, he met his son who had accompanied him to the convention, whereupon the son onticed Mr. Seay's voice to be weaker than usual; he appeared nervous, haggard, and anxious. That right Mr. Seay and his son went to dinner, attended the theater, and returned to the hotel, where Mr. Seay retired for the night. The next morning he was found dead in his bed.

Mr. Seay was a perfectionist, easily upset, high strung and nervous. He was a dedicated employee, taking his job very seriously. He worked late at the office many nights, and did not take a vacation in the four years prior to his death. He planned, in detail, attended and supervised the two conventions within a short time before his death. He dealt with the tedious arrangements in coordinating these conventions. He was under constant physical and emotional strain and was always in a hurry. He was constantly trying to meet 'deadline appointments.' Were these facts sufficient to establish causal connection with the workman's employment?

The Commission and the Circuit Court Judge were of the opinion that the claim was compensable.

The employer, appellant, relies strongly upon the opinion in Union Producing Company v. Dependents of Simpson, 251 Miss. 183, 168 So.2d 808 (1964), to sustain its argument under the 'ordinary wear and tear of life' doctrine. In the Union Producing Company case the employee died of myocardial infarction following a coronary occlusion. He worked as a clerk in an office, and his work required no lifting, stooping or physical work. He had been suffering from high blood pressure and was hypertensive and nervous. He experienced his attack while sitting at his desk working. He remained at his work for about an hour and a half before going to the hospital, where he died very soon after he arrived. In that case the Court pointed out that: 'The proof showed without dispute that Employee had no supervisory duties, and he had ample time to do his work, and was not crowded or rushed for time.'

The opinion in that case was based largely upon the fact that the employee was not under any physical or mental strain. On the other hand there is substantial evidence, in the case at bar, that the strain of Mr. Seay's employment was greater than the ordinary wear and tear of life to which everyone is subjected.

We affirmed the trial court and the Commissioner's holding that there was no showing of physical or emotional strain in the case of Moore v. Hederman Brothers, 240 Miss. 358, 127 So.2d 647 (1961), which is also a case where an employee died in bed. In Moore, supra, we affirmed the judgment of the trial court and the order of the Workmen's Compensation Commission denying compensation, because there was no showing that the employee was doing extreme physical exertion, nor was he subject to an emotional strain at the time of or just before his death.

We pointed out in the case of Insurance Department of Mississippi v. Dinsmore, 233 Miss. 569, 102 So.2d 691 (1958), suggestion of error overruled, 233 Miss. 581, 104 So.2d 296 (1958), that a disability proximately resulting from mental and emotional exertion may be causative and therefore compensable. On suggestion of error, we held that an injury does not have to develop instantaneously, but may accrue gradually over a period of time not too remote. See also W. G. Avery Body Company v. Hill, 224 Miss. 51, 79 So.2d 453, 80 So.2d 53 (1955).

The medical testimony in this case is in conflict as to whether or not the work activity of Mr. Seay accelerated his heart attack. Drs. Melvin and Ward testified, based on reasonable medical certainty, that the activity of Mr. Seay did accelerate his fatal accident. This testimony clearly shows that without the stress and strain of his work Mr. Seay would not have died when he did.

There is other testimony to the comtrary by drs. Hudson, Van Landingham, Fyke and Rosenblatt. We are, however, of the opinion that the expert testimony of Drs. Melvin and Ward, coupled with factual evidence, was sufficient, substantial evidence on which the trier of the facts could reasonably conclude that the death of Mr. Seay was causally connected with his work and was brought on by his physical and emotional stress in the performance of his duties.

It is pointed out by Dunn, Mississippi Workmen's Compensation section 97 (2d ed. 1967) that:

'Apparently there are to schools of medical thought as to whether or not usual and normal physical exertion has any causal connection with a heart attack. There is, also, an element of emotional strain which is sometimes considered as a factor and the varying degrees of physical effort or strain, with or without the emotional factor, may play a part in producing medical opinion on one theory or the other, as will be noted from the summaries of the proof adduced in the several cases cited throughout this article. In fact, conflict in the medical testimony has followed such a characteristic pattern as to be referred to in one case as being typical.

'The result of the typical conflict in medical opinion is that the issue of causal connection in such cases is said to be one for the medical experts and the Commission as triers of the facts, an where there is a conflict of qualified and substantial medical testimony, the decision of the Commission, for or against an award, is final and must be affirmed on review. This result is repeatedly evidenced by the several decisions cited throughout this article and the...

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    ...Rowland DX Truck Stop v. Kirby, No. 45,106 (Miss.1969); and Mississippi Association of Insurance Agents v. Dependents of Seay, 218 So.2d 413 (Miss.1969) convinces us that the factual situation presented by the case at bar is an exception to the general rule governing questions considered on......
  • Smith and Sanders, Inc. v. Peery, 54539
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    • July 17, 1985
    ...233 Miss. 569, 102 So.2d 691, aff'd on rehearing, 104 So.2d 296 (Miss.1958); Mississippi Ass'n of Insurance Agents v. Dependents of Seay, 218 So.2d 413 (Miss.1969); Charles N. Clark Associates, Ltd. v. Dependents of Robinson, 357 So.2d 924 The question presented by this case, stated in its ......
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    ...in an attack while he is employed the death or disability is not compensable. See Miss. Ass'n of Ins. Agents v. Dependents of Seay, 218 So.2d 413 (Miss.1969); Mississippi State University v. Dependents of Hattaway, 191 So.2d 418 (Miss.1966); Shivers v. Biloxi-Gulfport Daily Herald, 236 Miss......
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