Pocahontas Fuel Co. v. Orick

Decision Date03 June 1966
Parties, 218 Tenn. 514 POCAHONTAS FUEL COMPANY v. Lawrence ORICK.
CourtTennessee Supreme Court

W. Keith McCord, Knoxville, Egerton, McAfee, Armistead & Davis, Knoxville, of counsel, for appellant.

Roy Asbury, Jacksboro, and E. H. Rayson, Knoxville, Kramer, Dye, Greenwood, Johnson & Rayson, Knoxville, of counsel, for appellee.

OPINION

BURNETT, Chief Justice.

This is a Workmen's Compensation case. The Chancellor found in favor of the injured employee that he was totally disabled. An appeal has been seasonably perfected, able briefs filed and arguments heard. After a full consideration of the record and authorities, we are now in a position to determine the matter.

On April 25, 1963, Orick, while employed by the Pocahontas Fuel Company as a coal miner, was injured. He had been employed by this company for a number of years and had worked in the area mines for virtually his entire adult life. During most of his life he had experienced little illness and none for several years prior to this accident. He was fifty-eight years of age at the time he was injured, and had little formal education.

He was injured on the date above indicated when a large rock fell on him. When this rock fell on petitioner it fell across his right hip and pinned him down and fractured the rami bone, or public ring, of the pelvis. He also received a contusion of the left testicle and a contusion of the elbow. As soon as this rock was lifted or pushed off of him, he got in his car and drove to his home. When he arrived there he was unable to get out of his car, was taken out by his family, and they immediately took him to a doctor in LaFollette where he was hospitalized for a period of seven or eight days. This doctor and his father had been the employee's physicians for many years, and he testified as to the fractured bone above mentioned and said that the man was suffering 'excruciating pain in the pelvic region.' He further found a tenderness in the right public region and a swelling of the left testicle. His diagnosis was that petitioner sustained a fracture of the public bone, contusion of the left testicle and contusion of the elbow, and noted that his complaints related to his public region. Upon his examination he found that petitioner's chest was emphysematous and that he had a moderate scoliosis of the lumber spine.

After the petitioner was thus hospitalized for a little over a week, he stayed at home in bed for some six weeks and then used crutches and later a walking stick to get about. The petitioner testified that he continues to suffer pain in his pelvic region and in his testicles and becomes extremely nervous and nauseated when on his feet. He testified that he tried his 'very best' to work but could not do so.

Petitioner continued under the care of his local physician following his release from the hospital on up until the time of trial. This local physician saw him many times during a two year period after the accident. At the time of the trial the doctor testified that petitioner 'still walked with a limp; he was extremely nervous; he had pain in his groin; his public region, in a frog position; he had pain on straight leg raising in both legs, that was more marked on the left; and he had some numbness on the left side of his leg.' The doctor likewise testified that petitioner still had pain in his testicle and that he developed a hydrocele of the left testicle, which is fluid on the testicle, and that it was swollen twice its normal size.

This doctor likewise testified about the petitioner's arthritic condition and that this had been accelerated by the injury above referred to. This doctor testified that: 'This man didn't walk with a limp before he was hurt. He didn't walk all bent over. I think that is contributing to having arthritis. * * *' This doctor likewise testified that the man was unable to carry on a gainful occupation at the time and that he would not improve. He believed that the man was unable to do manual labor and that his condition had not changed in the six months preceding the time of trial, and attributed his present condition and disability to the mine accident.

There are a number of well-recognized specialists who testified herein by deposition that there was no fracture and that if there had been it had healed, and that the man was now able to work. The man's doctor referred him to an orthopedic specialist and he in turn advised the man's doctor that petitioner had recovered and was able to work, but regardless of all this testimony by these experts in different fields the man's family physician disagreed with them and said that the man was suffering this disability as a result of this mine accident and had not recovered from the accident.

It is true that these experts in different fields testify herein that he has fully recovered from any disability resulting from this accident and that his disability now, or at the time this case was tried, was due to other factors and conditions not connected with the injury that he had. As said above the local doctor disagrees with their conclusions.

At one place in the record in cross-examining the employee's physician the following occurred:

'Q Dr. Pryse, Mr. Orick complains now of constant nervousness and pain in the area of the hips, the lower back and the right leg. In view of your examination, is it your opinion then that all of this was attributed to this mining accident that happened in April, 1963?

'A I think that was the beginning of his trouble.

'Q I am saying though, is his present disability, his present state of disability, attributable to or proximately caused by this accident?

'A I think so.'

This local doctor likewise attributed the pain, which petitioner claimed he had, and which this doctor believed that he had about the testicle and other pain that petitioner says he continues to have, 'to the injury to the nerve where he had his fractured pelvis, and also the way that this man's position, his postural condition, is probably having pressure on a sciatic nerve.'

The man had completely recovered, at the time this suit was tried, from the fracture and physical injuries resulting from this accident, but his testicle was still swollen and he was extremely nervous. He had had some nervousness prior to the accident. His family doctor, who testified herein and treated him during his injury, is asked very thoroughly about all these things and was asked if petitioner doesn't have a type of neurosis, and his answer was, 'I think that this man is extremely nervous, and it started developing from this accident. He could have a fixation, but it shouldn't cause him to have limitation of motion. Dr. Penn and Dr. Willien said he had normal limitation of motion. I disagree with them.'

The man draws full Social Security and he was granted this based on a statement of the family doctor in which the doctor says he sustained this fracture, had chronic bronchitis, moderate to severe hypertrophic arthritis of the numbar spine with extreme nervousness, and with all this the doctor said he was unable to carry on a gainful occupation. This testimony of the family physician is not entirely based on subjective statements of the injured employee to the doctor but on his examination, knowledge of the man and his belief that this injury caused or precipitated and exaggerated a probably previous condition which did not totally disable the man or keep him from working.

The urologist who examined this man said he was all right and nothing about this testicle was out of the ordinary now other than what would happen to a man of his age and said that he didn't have any pain from it. The man testified to the contrary and his local physician didn't agree with the opinion of the urologist. Apparently this swelling, pain, etc., had not been there prior to this accident and did come after the accident. There is some logic and common sense to the local physician's opinion about the matter.

This local physician was asked another question which is pertinent herein. He was asked:

'Q Now will you tell me in what way and in what particulars you disagree with Dr. Willien and Dr. Penn, who examined him?

'A Well, they say that he has no orthopedic disability, which I say that he does, from the standpoint of his pain on straight leg raising, his pain in a frog-leg position, his numbness in his left leg, the way the man walks, and his nervousness.'

Thus we see from a rather exhaustive examination of this...

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