Petersen v. Central Pattern Co.

Decision Date17 January 1978
Docket NumberNo. 37345,37345
Citation562 S.W.2d 153
PartiesAndrew PETERSEN, Deceased, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. CENTRAL PATTERN CO. and Insurance Co. of North America, Defendants-Appellants. . Louis District, Division Two
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

Robert E. Wieland, Robertson, Ely & Wieland, St. Louis, for defendants-appellants.

Merle L. Silverstein, Julius Berg, C. Lawrence Mueller, St. Louis, for plaintiff-respondent.


Central Pattern Company and the Insurance Company of North America (employer and insurer respectively) appeal from a judgment of the circuit court reversing the Workmen's Compensation Commission decision denying the claim for compensation of Ralph A. Petersen, administrator of the Andrew Petersen estate.

Ralph Petersen's sixteen year old son, Andrew, sustained injuries in an accident March 3, 1968, on the Rocklin Farm near Rockridge, Illinois, eventuating in his death the following year. As administrator of his son's estate, Petersen made claim under Missouri's Workmen's Compensation Law, Chapter 287 RSMo 1969, for temporary total disability and benefits for medical, hospital and surgical services under § 287.140. 1 The Referee found Andrew's death resulted directly from the accident of March, 1968, but ruled claimant had not borne the burden of showing the existence of an employer-employee relationship between Andrew and appellant, Central Pattern Company, and accordingly denied benefits. Claimant appealed to the full Commission which, dismissing the claim for want of jurisdiction, found "that the referee's statements of fact, findings of fact and preliminary conclusions of law are supported by competent and substantial evidence and the same are hereby adopted." Claimant sought judicial review in the circuit court of St. Louis County which reversed and remanded the cause. From that order the employer and insurer appeal contending that the circuit court had substituted its judgment as to questions of fact for that of the Commission and weighed the evidence rather than determining if there was "sufficient competent evidence in the record to warrant the making of the award," as required by § 287.490, RSMo 1969. We reverse.

Central Pattern Company located in Hazelwood, Missouri, manufactures patterns and castings. Its President, Ralph Petersen, and his wife own all outstanding shares of the company. On Sunday, March 3, 1968, Petersen, his sons, Andrew and Kurt, with family friends, (Mr. Trolmalen and his young son, David) left the Petersen home in St. Louis County and drove to the Rocklin farm. The farm, owned by Ralph and Marie Petersen, had recently been leased to Central Pattern and was used for family recreation and to entertain company customers. Petersen testified that on Saturdays and Sundays he and other family members would sometimes work at the farm, clearing the woods, stocking the lake or caring for the horses and because March 3, 1968; that it was a "nice day to work" so he decided to go to the farm and invited the Trolmalens.

Arriving at the farm they determined to clear certain fallen trees and the two men commenced working with a chain saw. Later, while Kurt Petersen (age 15) and young David Trolmalen were playing, Andrew (age 16) began driving a large tractor and shortly thereafter was found suffering from a profound head injury. No accident was observed, but it is assumed that while operating the tractor Andrew was somehow struck on the head. He was taken to an Illinois hospital, thence to St. Mary's Hospital in Clayton, Missouri, where surgery revealed a severe cephalhematoma and depressed skull fracture. Never regaining full consciousness, Andrew remained in St. Mary's for fifty-three weeks and on March 12, 1969, died from the injury.

In the subsequent Workman's Compensation action, the Referee found the requisite employer-employee relationship did not exist and accordingly denied the claim. The Commission found that Andrew's injuries occurred in Illinois but that claimant had failed to establish that Andrew's injuries were received under a contract of employment made in Missouri, ruling that in the absence of such showing it was without jurisdiction under § 287.110(2) and accordingly dismissed the claim. Pertinent portions of the Commission's Order follow:

Although the referee did not make the ultimate conclusion and ruling required, we believe that his preliminary conclusion that the requisite relationship of employer-employee did not exist under the evidence presented in this case is correct. There was evidence that young Petersen worked part time for his father at Central Pattern Company and that at times he had done work for his father's farm in Illinois for which he was paid by Central Pattern. There was however no satisfactory evidence that all work done by young Petersen on his father's farm in Illinois was done for and on behalf of Central Pattern pursuant to any Missouri contract of hire, either express or implied, oral or written. Instead, we find that if any employer-employee relationship existed between young Petersen and Central Pattern at the time and place of the fatal accident in Illinois, it arose in Illinois under an express or implied appointment there by the father on behalf of Central Pattern and the election by the son to enter into such employment undertook the performance of the specific task which later took his life.

The principal issue is whether there was sufficient competent evidence to warrant the Commission's conclusion that the employer-employee relationship (if any) arose in Illinois and not from a Missouri contract to hire.

It was the function of the court to examine this Order of the Industrial Commission and not the Referee's award, Jackson v. McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, 426 S.W.2d 669 (Mo.App.1968), but while so doing the circuit court failed to apply the proper standard of review. While the Commission's determination on questions of law is not binding on the court, Weilert v. Fruin-Colnon, 447 S.W.2d 781, 785(1) (Mo.App.1969); Williams v. S. N. Long Warehouse Company, 426 S.W.2d 725, 733(10) (Mo.App.1968), neither the circuit nor the appellate court may substitute its judgment on the evidence for that of the Commission. Davies v. Carter Carburetor, Division ACF Industries, Incorporated, 429 S.W.2d 738, 741(1, 2) (Mo.1968); Saale v. Alton Brick Company, 508 S.W.2d 243, 246(1) (Mo.App.1974). Generally in passing on the sufficiency of the evidence we view the record in the light most favorable to the findings and disregard any evidence which might support a finding different than that of the Commission, and this is true though a finding of the Commission to the contrary would also have been supported by the evidence. McCue v. Studebaker Automotive Sales, Inc., 389 S.W.2d 408, 411(2) (Mo.App.1965); Williams v. S. N. Long Warehouse Company, supra. If the award is supported by competent substantial evidence it must be affirmed unless contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence and we are only authorized to determine whether the Commission reasonably could have reached the result it did. Miller v. Sleight & Hellmuth Ink Co., 436 S.W.2d 625, 627(5) (Mo.1969).

The circuit court ruled that the question of whether claimant was operating under a Missouri or an Illinois contract of employment at the time of his injury was a question of law, in this it erred because "the question of where the contract of employment or arrangement was made is one of fact," (emphasis supplied) Hall v. Denver-Chicago International, Inc., 481 S.W.2d 622, 625(2) (Mo.App.1972), turning on the intentions of the parties as evidenced by their acts and conduct, the nature of the business, the situation of the parties and all the facts and circumstances. Rendleman v. East Texas Motor Freight Lines, 355 Mo. 287, 196 S.W.2d 171, 174(6) (1946). The burden of proving that fact is upon claimant, Smith v. Braudis, 234 Mo.App. 1237, 123 S.W.2d 223 (1939), who bears the burden of bringing himself under the provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Law at the time of the accident by showing a Missouri employment contract. Hogue v. Wurdack, 298 S.W.2d 492, 499(15, 16) (Mo.App.1957).

Respondent, citing Herbert v. Sharp Brothers Contracting Company, 467 S.W.2d 105 (Mo.App.1971) contends that the evidentiary facts are not in dispute, so the award that should have been entered by the Industrial Commission becomes a question of law and the Commission's conclusions do not bind the court on review. This contention is not well taken as there was sharp disagreement concerning the facts and the inferences to be drawn therefrom. In this connection it should be noted that the Commission is charged with the...

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