Morris v. Badger Powhatan/Figgie Intern., Inc., 1355-85

Citation3 Va.App. 276, 348 S.E.2d 876
Case DateOctober 07, 1986
CourtCourt of Appeals of Virginia

Edward M. Wayland, Charlottesville, for appellant.

Nathaniel S. Newman (Thompson, Smithers, Newman & Wade, Richmond, on brief), for appellee.


COLE, Judge.

On February 27, 1984, the appellant, Wanda Lee Morris, sustained a compensable injury resulting from thermal burns to both of her hands. On June 13, 1984, she was operated on for carpal tunnel syndrome, right hand. The issue presented in this appeal is whether the evidence established a causal connection between the thermal burns and the carpal tunnel syndrome. The Industrial Commission found no causal relationship between them and dismissed the claim. We hold that the carpal tunnel syndrome was a compensable consequence of the thermal burns, and reverse.

Morris was employed by Badger Powhatan on February 27, 1984. Her job was to remove hot fire extinguishers from the assembly line as they came out of an oven. The first day at work she suffered second degree thermal burns to both her right and left hands. She returned to work on March 5, 1984, but again sustained burn injuries and was forced to miss additional time. These injuries were compensable, and accordingly, an award was entered by the Commission to cover them. The claimant was able to return to work on March 20, 1984, but, because of a dental problem, not work related, she did not return until March 27, 1984.

On February 29, 1984, Morris was examined by Dr. Talbott in the emergency room at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville. He recorded that she had blisters over both hands and that "Pt. states tips of fingers are all 'numb.' " She returned on March 7, 1984, and the nursing record notes: "Hands bandaged, can't tell how hot things are and has burned some new places." Dr. Talbott recorded: "No further handling of bottles. Contacted plant nurse today.... Off work till 3/12/84." She again returned on March 11, 1984, and Dr. Talbott noted that there was a near complete resolution of complaints. As to the right hand, he recorded: "Right hand--can feel pain, but not identify denomination."

Because of this medical background, upon her return to work on March 27, 1984, claimant was assigned a new job fluxing rings. Her duties were to use tweezers to pick up metal rings, then dip them into a solution and place them on a piece of cardboard. This procedure was performed on an average of 3,200 times per day. On this job, the claimant missed one day from work but left early in the afternoon before the end of her shift on about 10 occasions in April, 1984, to attend dental appointments.

The claimant was employed on probation for 30 work days, and before she had actually worked for 30 days, she was fired, under the terms of her probation, because of excessive absenteeism.

Since the claimant continued to complain about her hands, Dr. Talbott referred her to Dr. Richard F. Edlich, Professor of Plastic Surgery at the University of Virginia Medical Center, Department of Plastic Surgery. By letter dated June 7, 1984, to Dr. Talbott, Dr. Edlich reported that a physical examination demonstrated anesthesia of the thumb, index, long, and the radial side of her ring finger, that flexion of her wrist accentuated the anesthesia, and that these findings were consistent with the diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome. Dr. Edlich referred her to Dr. Raymond Morgan, hand surgeon for the department's team.

Dr. Morgan's first contact with the claimant was on June 7, 1984, and he recorded the following information in an office memorandum:

She reports experiencing thermal burns of the finger tips of her right hand related to handling hot fire extinguishers which she was helping to manufacture. The patient reports no other bony or ligamentous trauma to the right hand.... Her symptoms include dropping things without her knowledge from the right hand consistently. She says this has become increasingly worse over the last month. She also reports waking each night, on multiple occasions, and having to shake her right hand violently in order to have the feeling return to the fingers. She states that the numbness in her thumb, index finger, and long finger especially, has become progressively worse over the last three to four weeks.

On June 13, 1984, Dr. Morgan performed a right carpal tunnel syndrome operation, and commenced follow-up treatment on June 21, 1984, which extended through March 28, 1985, on a regular basis.

On June 19, 1984, Morris filed an application for a change in condition alleging that she returned to work on a restricted basis. Without objection, this application was treated as an application for further work incapacity under the original burn injury of February 27, 1984.

We review a decision of the Industrial Commission under familiar principles. If there is evidence, or reasonable inferences can be drawn from the evidence, to support the Commission's findings, they will not be disturbed on review, even though there is evidence in the record to support a contrary finding. Caskey v. Dan River Mills, Inc., 225 Va. 405, 411, 302 S.E.2d 507, 510-11 (1983); Code § 65.1-98. Although the findings of the Industrial Commission, if based on credible evidence, are conclusive and binding upon us, the Commission's findings of fact are not binding upon us when there is no credible evidence to support them. The question of the sufficiency of the evidence then becomes one of law. Breckenridge v. Marval Poultry Co., 228 Va. 191, 196, 319 S.E.2d 769, 772 (1984) (citations omitted). The trier of fact must determine the weight of the testimony and the credibility of the witnesses, but it may not arbitrarily disregard uncontradicted evidence of unimpeached witnesses which is not inherently incredible and not inconsistent with facts in the record. Hankerson v. Moody, 229 Va. 270, 274, 329 S.E.2d 791, 794 (1985) (citations omitted).

A hearing before a deputy commissioner was held on the application on July 18, 1984. He rendered an opinion on October 22, 1984, holding that the carpal tunnel syndrome was a condition causally related to the February 27, 1984, accident. An award was made establishing benefits beginning April 27, 1984. On review, the full commission found that the employer had been precluded from offering evidence in rebuttal regarding the carpal tunnel syndrome, and remanded the case to the trial docket solely for the purpose of taking evidence from both parties regarding the claimant's carpal tunnel syndrome and its causal connection, if any, to the claimant's employment.

The chief deputy commissioner held a further hearing on April 26, 1985, limited to causal connection. In his opinion of June 25, 1985, he stated:

From a review of Dr. Morgan's reports after he was aware of the full work history of the claimant, it is clear from his careful and selective language that he does not relate the carpal tunnel syndrome for which he treated the claimant to be either the burn injury to the hands or to the repetitive work done subsequently. We are left to speculate.

In addition, he held that carpal tunnel syndrome was an ordinary disease of life, which, under the conditions prevailing in this case, was not compensable. Accordingly, he dismissed the claimant's application for a change in condition on both grounds. On review, the full Commission in an opinion dated September 27, 1985, found that the claimant's carpal tunnel syndrome resulted from her repetitive use of her hands after returning to a different employment and occurred over a period of time rather than from the thermal burns, a compensable event. The Commission further held that carpal tunnel syndrome is...

To continue reading

Request your trial
121 cases
  • Artis v. Ottenberg's Bakers, Inc.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • 8 d2 Fevereiro d2 2005
    ...original), even if there is evidence in the record that would support a contrary finding. Morris v. Badger Powhatan/Figgie Int'l, Inc., 3 Va.App. 276, 279, 348 S.E.2d 876, 877 (1986); Russell Loungewear v. Gray, 2 Va.App. 90, 95, 341 S.E.2d 824, 826 It is well settled that, "where a disable......
  • Artis v. Ottenberg's Bakers, Inc., Record No. 2157-03-4 (VA 2/8/2005), Record No. 2157-03-4.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Virginia
    • 8 d2 Fevereiro d2 2005
    ...original), even if there is evidence in the record that would support a contrary finding. Morris v. Badger Powhatan/Figgie Int'l, Inc., 3 Va. App. 276, 279, 348 S.E.2d 876, 877 (1986); Russell Loungewear v. Gray, 2 Va. App. 90, 95, 341 S.E.2d 824, 826 It is well settled that, "where a disab......
  • Com. v. Bakke, Record No. 2351-04-4.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Virginia
    • 27 d2 Setembro d2 2005
    ...factual findings of the commission will not be disturbed if based on credible evidence. Morris v. Badger Powhatan/Figgie Int'l, Inc., 3 Va.App. 276, 279, 348 S.E.2d 876, 877 (1986). The commission may not arbitrarily disregard uncontradicted evidence of unimpeached witnesses, which is not i......
  • Farmington Country Club v. Marshall
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Virginia
    • 22 d2 Novembro d2 2005
    ...Imperial Trash Serv. v. Dotson, 18 Va.App. 600, 606-07, 445 S.E.2d 716, 720 (1994) (quoting Morris v. Badger Powhatan/Figgie Int'l, Inc., 3 Va.App. 276, 283, 348 S.E.2d 876, 879 (1986)). Under these circumstances, "the second injury is treated as if it occurred in the course of and arising ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT