Noblesville Casting, Division of TRW, Inc. v. Prince

Decision Date24 August 1981
Docket NumberNo. 2-580A132,2-580A132
Citation424 N.E.2d 1055
PartiesNOBLESVILLE CASTING, DIVISION OF TRW, INC., Appellant-Defendant, v. Freddie J. PRINCE, Appellee-Plaintiff.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

Paul L. Fields, Lowe, Gray, Steele & Hoffman, Edwin J. Bunny, Indianapolis, for appellant-defendant.

Arvin R. Foland, Noblesville, for appellee-plaintiff.

CHIPMAN, Presiding Judge.

Defendant Noblesville Casting Division of TRW, Inc. seeks review of an award of the Full Industrial Board of Indiana in favor of Freddie J. Prince. Noblesville Casting challenges Prince's expert medical testimony on the issue of causation in light of the expert testimony requirements of Palace Bar, Inc. v. Fearnot, (1978) 269 Ind. 405, 381 N.E.2d 858. We agree that under these requirements the expert testimony given is not sufficient to prove the alleged industrial accident caused Prince's injuries. Accordingly, we reverse.

The evidence in a light most favorable to the judgment follows:

Prince was a maintenance man for Noblesville Casting and did general repair work throughout the plant. On May 6, 1976, he was working on a flat car line which transported heavy (200-300 pounds) flasks. He and two others were placing a flask on the line and as the other two men lifted their side, an excess of the flask weight shifted toward Prince. He suffered immediate pain and had difficulty straightening his back. He reported the incident to his superior, left work for the remainder of the day and consulted a doctor for a possible hernia (although none was found). Prince continued working until October 18, 1977, although he complained periodically of back pain.

On October 18, 1977, Prince entered the hospital for back surgery. Dr. William H. Norman examined him on November 6 and performed a spinal fusion on November 8. The fusion was intended to restrict motion and relieve pain. Prince had previously undergone two back surgeries which consisted of disk removals in 1966 and 1969. The first resulted in a 20% permanent partial impairment, the second an additional 15% impairment. Dr. Norman stated that the 1977 surgery increased Prince's impairment another 15% due to restriction of motion.

The relevant portion of the Industrial Board's findings state:

"4. That Plaintiff had no difficulty in performing his job during the year prior to May 6, 1976, but that he was impeded in his performance after May 6, 1976. Plaintiff suffered from pain in his back after May 6, 1976 and complained to his superiors of his discomfort during the duration from May 6, 1976 to October 18, 1977.

5. Plaintiff continued to work, but as time passed, he became more impaired until on October 18, 1977, while at work, he could not continue.

6. That the pain Plaintiff originally experienced in his groin, left in a few days after May 6, 1976, but the back and leg pain never left, but rather intensified. This increased impairment resulted in a decrease in the number of hours Plaintiff was able to work from May 6, 1976 to October 18, 1977. The impairment was as a result of stiffness, strain and pain.

7. Plaintiff reported the injury of May 6, 1976, to his employer's insurance adjuster on October 19, 1977, and then described the on-setting of the disability to Dr. Sam J. Davis and also advised Dr. William Norman of the injury as well.


10. That on April 4, 1979, Plaintiff had a 30% voluntary limitation of motion of his back.

11. That as a result of the injury suffered by the Plaintiff, during the course of his employment on May 6, 1976, Plaintiff has suffered additional permanent impairment of 15% to the man as a whole.

12. That Plaintiff was totally disabled as a result of the injury on May 6, 1976 from October 18, 1977 until July 12, 1978.

13. That Plaintiff's injury was as a result (proximate cause) of a strain being imposed upon a pre-existing condition, i. e., the aggravation thereof.

14. Judicial notice is taken and Defendant's proposed findings filed June 21, 1979, show that Plaintiff had a pre-existing condition of a weakened back, due to two work-related prior disc surgeries, which resulted in Plaintiff being rated 20% permanent partial impairment of the man as a whole in 1966, and an additional 15% in 1969.

15. The strain suffered on May 6, 1976, 1 aggravated that condition resulting in (proximate cause) the necessity of a spinal fusion and the additional permanent impairment of 15% to the man as a whole over the impairment existing on May 6, 1976."

Dr. Norman was the sole expert witness on the issue of causation. His deposition which was introduced into evidence reveals the following as his most favorable opinion on causation:

"83 Q Well, from the physical examination and from what you observed during the operation, the kind of repair that you did make, what are the causes of such an injury or that would require this kind of repair?

A Well, I think, basically, we do know that this man had previous trouble.

He had had previous disk trouble.

He had subsequent changes as a result of that; namely, that of narrowing of the disk and what we call degenerative or arthritic changes.

Of course, during this period he had evidence of sciatica nerve-root irritation from the changes that occurred in this area.

We see it at times when patients have had an injury superimposed upon these conditions which seems to aggravate or increase their ability and symptoms.

84 Q Certain external trauma could cause the sort of thing for which you operated on him?

A Well, it could be Let me say it this way:

It could be an aggravating factor in producing more irritation or symptoms in this area."

"96 Q Now, I would like for you to assume for a moment a few facts.

If you would assume that Mr. Prince, back about May, 1977, (sic) was lifting a heavy object A flask at his employment and that in so doing as he was stooped over, the weight shifted to him and at that particular time he experienced pain down into his legs, down into his groin and, then, taking into consideration the history that you did take before the operation and what you have seen from your personal observations during the operation and thereafter; what, if any opinion, do you have with a degree of medical certainty as to the relationship between the lifting of the flask and necessity for the spinal surgery?


(objection to hypothetical, overruled by Board)

A We know it is possible with the type of history you have given me, to reinjure his back, and we would in most cases, unless some evidence of fracture or dislocation or something of that nature, we would have to consider it as a strain or injury super-imposed upon a preexisting condition or an aggravation as I stated.

97 Q Now, as I understand the history that you took, you are acquainted with two prior laminectomys (sic)?

A Yes. Disc surgeries.

98 Q The history that you have given, taking into consideration those things and the history that you took from the patient before the operation and assuming that on or about May the 6th, 1977, (year amended to 1976) while at his employment at Noblesville Casting Company, Mr. Prince, while stooping over to lift up a flask that had fallen from its little flatcar, while being...

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1 cases
  • Noblesville Casting Div. of TRW, Inc. v. Prince
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • August 11, 1982
    ...of Freddie J. Prince, wherein he seeks review of the Court of Appeals' decision found at Noblesville Casting, Div. of TRW, Inc. v. Prince, (1981) Ind.App., 424 N.E.2d 1055. There, the Court of Appeals reversed the Full Industrial Board's award of workmen's compensation benefits to Prince. W......

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