Panola Junior College v. Estate of Thompson

Decision Date04 March 1987
Docket NumberNo. 9530,9530
Citation727 S.W.2d 677
Parties38 Ed. Law Rep. 1306 PANOLA JUNIOR COLLEGE, Appellant, v. The ESTATE OF Lois Lee THOMPSON, Deceased, Appellee.
CourtTexas Court of Appeals

Kenzy D. Hallmark, Zeleskey, Cornelius, Rogers, Hallmark, Lufkin, for appellant.

Jim Ammerman, II, Marshall, for appellee.

BLEIL, Justice.

Panola Junior College appeals from a judgment on a jury verdict in favor of Lois Thompson 1 in a workers' compensation case. Panola raises issues regarding the sufficiency of the evidence and the propriety of the court's charge. We resolve these issues in favor of Thompson and affirm.

Thompson was employed by Panola on July 1, 1980, as director of the nursing program at the Oscar B. Jones School of Vocational Nursing. In July 1983, Thompson injured her back while moving boxes of books when the nursing program was moved from one building to another. Thompson had experienced back problems before this injury. The problems began in 1945 and she received treatment for them in 1949. Ten years later, Thompson's back began bothering her again, and she received a spinal fusion as treatment. Around 1963, she had a second fusion. Thompson testified that throughout this entire period she had difficulty lifting or moving heavy objects.

Thompson testified that on July 1, 1983, while moving books and boxes in her office, she noticed a pain in her back. Before taking books off shelves she had no pain, but the act of shuffling the boxes around and digging down in them caused the pain to start.

Three of Thompson's students testified. One, Mary Riser, was in Thompson's office helping her move on July 1, 1983. Riser stated that at one point, Thompson pulled at the boxes, stopped and said that she was tired and had to stop. Riser also stated that Thompson said, "Oh, me, oh, my back" and sat down.

Her students testified that after the move, Thompson appeared to be in pain while teaching class, she had trouble standing up, and she taught from a chair, although she had formerly taught from a podium. Thompson did not consult a doctor until the following January when she was hospitalized for back pain and an infection. The jury found that Thompson had suffered an injury while working at the college, but that her prior injury in 1963 contributed 33 1/3% to her present disability.

Panola alleges that there is no evidence or insufficient evidence to support the jury finding of an accidental injury traceable to a definite time, place and cause. The Workers' Compensation Act, Tex.Rev.Civ.Stat.Ann. art. 8306 et seq. (Vernon 1967 & Supp.1987), does not require that the injury be the result of an accident, but the injury, to be compensable, must result from an undesigned, untoward event traceable to a definite time, place and cause. Olson v. Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, 477 S.W.2d 859 (Tex.1972); Northern Assur. Co. of America v. Taylor, 540 S.W.2d 832 (Tex.Civ.App.-Texarkana 1976, writ ref'd n.r.e.).

Panola relies on Olson, stating that Thompson should not recover because she cannot trace her injury to a definite incident. In Olson, the claimant died of a heart attack, but had not been subjected to any particular physical strain or over-exertion. He had had three or four frustrating experiences over a seventeen-day period, but no attempt was made to connect any of these experiences to the heart attack.

Here, there was testimony from Thompson as well as from her students that her injury resulted from moving boxes on July 1, 1983. This is sufficiently definite to meet the requirements of the law; it has been held that an injury occurring over a three-day period sufficiently defined the requisite time, place and cause. Texas Employers' Insurance Association v. Murphy, 506 S.W.2d 312 (Tex.Civ.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1974, writ ref'd n.r.e.). The jury had sufficient evidence before it to conclude that Thompson's injury was traceable to a definite time, place and cause.

Panola further complains that the trial court did not submit an issue inquiring whether Thompson had suffered an "accidental" injury. It cites Fidelity & Guaranty Insurance Underwriters, Inc. v. La Rochelle, 587 S.W.2d 493 (Tex.Civ.App.-Dallas 1979, writ ref'd n.r.e.), for the holding that the proper issue to submit in a workers' compensation case is one which inquires whether the injury was accidental and includes a definition of the term "accidental." The court found that the failure to submit a proper issue over objection was reversible error. However, the failure to define the term "accidental injury" has also been held not to constitute reversible error. Aetna Casualty and Surety Company v. Shreve, 551 S.W.2d 79 (Tex.Civ.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1977, no writ).

2 State Bar of Texas, Texas Pattern Jury Charges, PJC 20.03 (1970), provides...

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2 cases
  • Hogue v. Blue Bell Creameries, L.P.
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • May 7, 1996
    ...v. Estate of Thompson, this Court wrote on the issue of a causation instruction in a workers' compensation case. 727 S.W.2d 677 (Tex.App.--Texarkana 1987, writ ref'd n.r.e.). In that case, the employer complained on appeal that the trial court failed to give an instruction to the effect tha......
  • Mandlebauer v. Texas Workers' Comp Ins Fund
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • September 23, 1999
    ...Charges, State Bar of Tex., Texas Pattern Jury Charges PJC 20.01 (2d ed. 1989). See also Panola Junior College v. Estate of Thompson, 727 S.W.2d 677, 679 (Tex. App.--Texarkana 1987, writ ref'd n.r.e.). They also provide a comprehensive set of questions (and necessary definitions) for the ju......

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