Pee v. AVM, INC., No. 25560.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Citation352 S.C. 167,573 S.E.2d 785
Docket NumberNo. 25560.
Decision Date25 November 2002
PartiesMiriam PEE, Respondent, v. AVM, INC., and Arvin Industries, Inc., Petitioners.

352 S.C. 167
573 S.E.2d 785

Miriam PEE, Respondent,
v.
AVM, INC., and Arvin Industries, Inc., Petitioners

No. 25560.

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Heard October 10, 2002.

Decided November 25, 2002.


352 S.C. 169
Stanford E. Lacy and Peter H. Dworjanyn, of Collins & Lacy, of Columbia, for petitioners

Rodney C. Jernigan, Jr. and Karl A. Folkens, of Folkens & Jernigan, of Florence, for respondent.

Kathryn Williams, of Greenville, for amicus curiae S.C. Trial Lawyers Association.

Justice MOORE:

Respondent (Claimant) was awarded workers' compensation benefits for disability from carpal tunnel syndrome resulting from repetitive trauma to both wrists.1 Petitioners (Employer) appealed. The circuit court and the Court of Appeals affirmed.2 The only issue is whether a repetitive trauma injury is compensable under the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Act. We find it is and affirm.

FACTS

Claimant worked for Employer in various capacities beginning in 1987. Each of her jobs involved the repetitive use of her hands. In the spring of 1995 she began experiencing tingling and numbness in both hands. On April 25, 1995, she was diagnosed with moderately severe carpal tunnel syndrome caused by compression of the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. The evidence is uncontradicted that claimant's injury is work-related.

352 S.C. 170
After surgery in June 1995, Claimant's left wrist improved temporarily but her symptoms returned within six months. Claimant's treating doctor removed her from work beginning April 20, 1996. By May 1996, she had severe carpal tunnel syndrome in her right wrist. Surgery was recommended for her right wrist in October 1996 with no guarantee of relief from her symptoms

Meanwhile, on July 21, 1996, Claimant filed this action claiming benefits for an on-the-job injury. Claimant was awarded temporary total benefits continuing until she reaches maximum medical improvement.

The circuit court and the Court of Appeals held a repetitive trauma injury is compensable as an "injury by accident" as provided in S.C.Code Ann. § 42-1-160 (Supp.2001).

ISSUE

Is a repetitive trauma injury compensable as an injury by accident?

DISCUSSION

Employer contends a repetitive trauma injury does not qualify as an "injury by accident" because the cause of the injury is not unexpected and the injury lacks definiteness of time. In the alternative, Employer contends injury from repetitive trauma should be compensable as an occupational disease if compensable at all.

1. Unexpectedness

Employer contends the repetitive event which causes a repetitive trauma injury is not unexpected but is part of the worker's normal work activity. Because the event causing the injury is not unexpected, Employer argues repetitive trauma injury cannot be compensable as an injury by accident.

Under § 42-1-160, a claimant is entitled to benefits for an "injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment." In Layton v. Hammond-Brown-Jennings Co., 190 S.C. 425, 3 S.E.2d 492 (1939), we interpreted for the first time the meaning of "injury by accident" under the newly enacted Workman's Compensation Act. We noted that two lines of

352 S.C. 171
cases had evolved in other jurisdictions: some jurisdictions, including North Carolina upon which our Act is modeled, held there must be some unusual or unlooked-for mishap resulting in injury to constitute an accident; other jurisdictions held no mishap was required for an accident so long as there was an unexpected injury occurring while the employee was performing his usual duties in his customary manner. We chose the latter definition, focusing on the unexpected nature of the injury rather than requiring that the event causing the injury be unexpected. This definition of accident as an unexpected injury has been reiterated in a long line of cases. See, e.g., Colvin v. E.I. DuPont De Nemours Co., 227 S.C. 465, 88 S.E.2d 581 (1955) (injury by accident is an injury occurring unexpectedly without the prior occurrence of any external event of an accidental nature); Hiers v. Brunson Const. Co., 221 S.C. 212, 70 S.E.2d 211 (1952) (injury by accident is an injury that is accidental in that it is unforeseen and unexpected).3

As we more recently stated, "in determining whether something constitutes an injury by accident the focus is not on some specific event, but rather on the injury itself." Stokes v. First Nat'l Bank, 306 S.C. 46, 50, 410 S.E.2d 248, 250 (1991). Further, an injury is unexpected, bringing it within the category of accident, if the worker did not intend it or expect it would result from what he was doing. Colvin, 227 S.C. at 468-69, 88 S.E.2d at 582 (emphasis added). Therefore, if an injury is unexpected from the worker's point of view, it qualifies as an injury by accident. Here, there is no evidence Claimant intended or expected to be injured as a result of her repetitive work activity.

Employer's contention that the cause of the injury must be unexpected is incorrect. Under South Carolina law, if the injury itself is unexpected, it is compensable as an injury by accident.

352 S.C. 172
2. Definiteness of time

Employer contends the injury resulting from repetitive trauma has no definite time of occurrence and therefore it is not compensable...

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22 practice notes
  • Bass v. Isochem, No. 3996.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • June 6, 2005
    ...a repetitive trauma injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, is compensable under the Workers' Compensation Act. Pee v. AVM, Inc., 352 S.C. 167, 573 S.E.2d 785 (2002). The Pee court found "a repetitive trauma injury meets the definition of injury by accident in that it is an unforeseen injur......
  • Rueda v. Utah Labor Comm'n, No. 20140043
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • August 31, 2017
    ..., 512 N.W.2d 290, 294–95 (Iowa 1994) (same); Pee v. AVM, Inc. , 344 S.C. 162, 543 S.E.2d 232, 234–37 (S.C. Ct. App. 2001) (same), aff'd , 352 S.C. 167, 573 S.E.2d 785 (2002). The fifth state, Oregon, rejected a plain meaning approach and instead employed a term of art approach consistent wi......
  • State v. Blakney, No. 5266.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • August 20, 2014
    ...must be discharged from his sentence. Therefore, a defendant's completion of his CSP term discharges any residual probation, Dawkins, 352 S.C. at 167, 573 S.E.2d at 785, and, thus, circuit judges may have found it futile to add a term of probation to sentences for no parole offenses.4 A CSP......
  • Salazar v. Torres, No. 23,841.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • September 12, 2005
    ...been Page 1283 for the employee an unlooked for and untoward event." (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)); Pee v. AVM, Inc., 352 S.C. 167, 573 S.E.2d 785, 787 (2002) (holding that "if an injury is unexpected from the worker's point of view, it qualifies as an injury by accident"......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
22 cases
  • Bass v. Isochem, No. 3996.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • June 6, 2005
    ...a repetitive trauma injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, is compensable under the Workers' Compensation Act. Pee v. AVM, Inc., 352 S.C. 167, 573 S.E.2d 785 (2002). The Pee court found "a repetitive trauma injury meets the definition of injury by accident in that it is an unforeseen injur......
  • Rueda v. Utah Labor Comm'n, No. 20140043
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • August 31, 2017
    ..., 512 N.W.2d 290, 294–95 (Iowa 1994) (same); Pee v. AVM, Inc. , 344 S.C. 162, 543 S.E.2d 232, 234–37 (S.C. Ct. App. 2001) (same), aff'd , 352 S.C. 167, 573 S.E.2d 785 (2002). The fifth state, Oregon, rejected a plain meaning approach and instead employed a term of art approach consistent wi......
  • State v. Blakney, No. 5266.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • August 20, 2014
    ...must be discharged from his sentence. Therefore, a defendant's completion of his CSP term discharges any residual probation, Dawkins, 352 S.C. at 167, 573 S.E.2d at 785, and, thus, circuit judges may have found it futile to add a term of probation to sentences for no parole offenses.4 A CSP......
  • Salazar v. Torres, No. 23,841.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • September 12, 2005
    ...been Page 1283 for the employee an unlooked for and untoward event." (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)); Pee v. AVM, Inc., 352 S.C. 167, 573 S.E.2d 785, 787 (2002) (holding that "if an injury is unexpected from the worker's point of view, it qualifies as an injury by accident"......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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