Pattengill v. General Motors Corp., 61756

Decision Date22 December 1992
Docket NumberNo. 61756,61756
Citation845 S.W.2d 630
PartiesLawrence PATTENGILL, Respondent, v. GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION, Appellant.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

Brian J. Dean, St. Louis, for appellant.

Harry J. Nichols, St. Louis, for respondent.

CRIST, Judge.

General Motors (Employer) appeals from a final award of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (Commission) affirming an award of workers' compensation benefits to claimant. We affirm.

In his claim for compensation, Lawrence Pattengill (Claimant) sought payments for disability due to right and left (bilateral) inguinal hernias which he had allegedly sustained in an incident at work.

Evidence from the hearing indicates Claimant was employed as a pipefitter at a General Motors plant in St. Louis. On February 22, 1986, Claimant was working on the top step of a twelve-foot A-frame ladder attempting to guide a 300- to 500-pound burner, which was elevated by four men using ropes, into a proper position so that bolts could be secured to it. In order to reach the burner Claimant had to extend his arms above his head and stretch as far as he could reach. While in this position, Claimant felt a "ting" in his groin area. He completed the job and descended the ladder, then told his boss about the pain he had just experienced. His boss replied that he had probably pulled a muscle.

A few days later Claimant again was experiencing pain in his groin and decided to see his physician, Dr. Bonsanti. Dr. Bonsanti referred Claimant to Dr. Alexander, who on May 30, 1986, surgically repaired claimant's hernias. Due to his injury and subsequent surgery, claimant was unable to return to work for six weeks.

After the hearing, the administrative law judge (ALJ) found Claimant's hernias were the result of an unusual strain and had not existed prior to Claimant's accident at work. On this basis, the ALJ found Claimant to have "sustain[ed] five percent partial disability of the body as a whole referable to the left groin area and a seven and one-half percent partial disability of the body as a whole referable to the right groin area."

Employer appealed. Commission, in its Final Award Denying Compensation, reversed the ALJ's award, finding Claimant had not provided Employer with proper notice of injury. One Commissioner dissented. On appeal, we reversed and remanded the case back to Commission. Pattengill v. General Motors Corp., 820 S.W.2d 112 (Mo.App.1991).

On remand, Commission reinstated the ALJ's award of compensation. It is from this final order of Commission that Employer appeals.

We examine the record in the light most favorable to the award. If the award is supported by substantial evidence, we will not disturb it. Raines v. City of St. Louis, 711 S.W.2d 544, 545 (Mo.App.1986).

Employer asserts the trial court erred in awarding compensation by reason of the dictates of § 287.195, RSMo 1986. That section states:

In all claims for compensation for hernia resulting from injury arising out of and in the course of the employment, it must be definitely proved to the satisfaction of the division or the commission:

(1) That there was an accident or unusual strain resulting in hernia;

(2) That the hernia did not exist prior to the accident or unusual strain resulting in the injury for which compensation is claimed. (Emphasis ours.)

Specifically, Employer asserts (1) the February 22, 1986 incident was not an unusual strain; and (2) the record does not contain substantial evidence to support causation or that Claimant did not have pre-existing hernias.

We turn first to whether an unusual strain occurred. "[A]n unusual or abnormal strain may be classified as an accident even though not preceded by a slip and fall. The unexpected or abnormal strain usually results from the performance of work in an abnormal manner or in a manner not routine, but this is not necessarily so. Abnormal strain may also result from the lifting of heavy objects while in an awkward or unbalanced posture where the worker is subjected to stress of unforseen force or duration." Wolfgeher v. Wagner Cartage Service, Inc., 646 S.W.2d 781, 783 (Mo. banc 1983) (citations omitted); accord Alexander v. Pin Oaks Nursing Home, 625 S.W.2d 192, 193 (Mo.App.1981); Merriman v. Ben Gutman Truck Service, Inc., 392 S.W.2d 292, 297 (Mo.1965). In determining whether an unusual strain occurred, we must focus "on the fact that the injury has occurred rather than what act or force immediately preceded the injury." Viola v. Custom Coatings, Inc., 664 S.W.2d 266 (Mo.App.1984) quoting Wolfgeher, 646 S.W.2d at 267.

Here, Claimant was injured while standing on top of a 12-foot ladder and reaching up as far as he could to guide a 300- to 500-pound object suspended over his head by ropes held by four men. Clearly, this qualifies as an unusual strain.

Employer also contends Claimant failed to prove causation and failed to prove "the hernia did not exist prior to the accident." Employer's arguments both rest on its assertion...

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4 cases
  • Hampton v. Big Boy Steel Erection
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • December 9, 2003
    ...Nursing Home, 848 S.W.2d 515 (Mo.App.1993); Gaston v. J.H. Ware Trucking Inc., 849 S.W.2d 70 (Mo.App. 1993); Pattengill v. General Motors Corp., 845 S.W.2d 630 (Mo.App.1992); Wood v. Dierbergs Market, 843 S.W.2d 396 (Mo. App.1992); Smith v. Arthur's Fashions, 843 S.W.2d 3 (Mo.App.1992); Sho......
  • Young v. Boone Elec. Coop.
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • April 14, 2015
    ...injury is (the result of) an accident.Id. at 203 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Pattengill v. General Motors Corp., 845 S.W.2d 630, 631 (Mo.App.E.D.1992).13 McClain reversed the Commission's award of compensation to a taxicab driver who suffered a hernia as a res......
  • Young v. Cooperative, WD76567
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • April 14, 2015
    ...is (the result of) an accident. Id. at 203 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Pattengill v. General Motors Corp., 845 S.W.2d 630, 631 (Mo. App. E.D. 1992).29 McClain reversed the Commission'sPage 35award of compensation to a taxicab driver who suffered a hernia as a ......
  • State v. Flanigan, 61331
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • December 22, 1992

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