Podio v. American Colloid Co.

Decision Date14 November 1968
Docket NumberNo. 10482,10482
Citation83 S.D. 528,162 N.W.2d 385
PartiesMartha PODIO, widow of Louis Podio, Deceased, Claimant and Respondent, v. AMERICAN COLLOID COMPANY, Employer, and Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., Insurer, Appellants.
CourtSouth Dakota Supreme Court

Whiting, Lynn, Freiberg & Shultz, Rapid City, for Employer and Insurer, appellants.

Dillavou & Richards, Deadwood and Spearfish, for claimant and respondent.

RENTTO, Judge.

This proceeding involves a claim made under our Workmen's Compensation Law. The claimant alleged that her husband died as a result of injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment by the American Colloid Company. After hearing, the Deputy Industrial Commissioner made findings of fact and conclusions of law sustaining her claim and awarded her the statutory compensation for death and costs. The petition for review filed by the employer and insurer was denied after which they appealed to the circuit court. It affirmed the decision of the Commissioner. From that judgment the employer and insurer appeal.

On January 18, 1965, the decedent, while installing a flashing under the roof of the Colloid Company Plant near Belle Fourche, South Dakota, slipped off a plank catwalk and fell about 10 feet onto a steel beam injuring his left shoulder and his back in the region of the left scapula. On examination it was determined that he had sustained a fracture of his left clavicle, probable fractures of his first and tenth ribs on the left side and internal injuries in his chest. This latter condition was never confirmed in subsequent examination. He was suffering intense pain in his left shoulder and his chest beneath the left scapula for which he was given medications and fitted with a clavicle splint and rib belt. He was not hospitalized because he insisted that he could rest better at home.

Later in January and again in February he returned to the attending doctor's office several times complaining of pain. On these visits his belt and brace were readjusted and he was given pain relievers and other medications, including antibiotics for a traumatic pleurisy. On one visit an x-ray of his chest was taken. This revealed a healthy chest except for a heart that was mildly enlarged and evidence of a hiatal hernia. He was not hospitalized until he returned complaining of pain on February 4th from which confinement he was released on February 6th. On that occasion an electrocardiogram was taken which was negative, but the tracing was abnormal suggesting an acute posterior infarct, but other findings were not such as are found with an acute coronary. During this hospitalization he showed marked improvement and was permitted to return to his home.

Because of severe pains in his left chest he visited his doctor the following day. He was then hospitalized and remained there until February 15th. During this stay he complained of tenderness in the back in the vicinity of his left shoulder blade. An x-ray was taken, but it did not reveal anything not previously seen. His doctor found his heart to be regular and normal and when released he was in good condition. He next called on his doctor on March 3rd at which time he was feeling better, but was not permitted to return to work. He still had some pain in his back and shoulder. He died unexpectedly at his home on March 6th.

Decedent was 5 ft. 2 in. tall and weighed about 200 pounds while employed by the Colloid Company. He had never had a heart ailment and during the time he and the claimant were married his health was good. He had consulted doctors only twice during that time and on both occasions it was concerning his excess weight. As a result sometime prior to his employment by Colloid he had lost about 30 pounds. From the time of his injury to his death he lived a life of comparative inactivity, doing no work. The day he died he slept until about noon, visited a relative in the afternoon and did some light shopping. That evening while watching TV which seemed to amuse him, he called to his wife, who was in another room, that he was fainting away. Apparently he was dead when she got to him. He was then 54 years of age. The autopsy revealed that an acute coronary thrombosis was the cause of his death.

On this appeal it is contended that the Commissioner erred in finding that there was a causal relationship between the decedent's death and the accident of January 18, 1965. Without such relationship the decedent's death would not arise out of and in the course of his employment. As supporting the finding of causation claimant urges the testimony of decedent's attending doctor. His opinion was that decedent's death 'was due to a contusion of the heart sustained when he fell.' Appellants urge that this opinion should be disregarded because the record does not support the premise on which it is based. Other medical testimony disputed this opinion and there was none corroborating it.

The value of an opinion of an expert witness is dependent on and entitled to no more weight than the facts upon which it is predicated. It cannot rise above its foundation. Oviatt v. Oviatt Dairy, Inc., 80 S.D. 83, 119 N.W.2d 649; Joffer v. Crusy's Power Brake & Supply Inc., S.D., 156 N.W.2d 189; W. Horace Williams Company, Inc. v. Serpas, 5 Cir., 261 F.2d 857. Obviously such opinion has no probative force unless the premises upon which it is based are shown to be true.

The primary fact on which the attending doctor's opinion is based is that there was a contusion to decedent's heart. This is without support in the record. The electrocardiogram which was taken at his suggestion does not show a contusion to the heart, nor does the autopsy report. The validity of this evidence the doctor does not dispute. Moreover, he admitted on cross-examination that there was nothing in the record to sustain his assertion that decedent's heart had been bruised when he fell. 1 Consequently, his opinion furnished no medical support for the finding of causal relationship. In this connection it is of significance that the commissioner's memorandum of decision indicates he did not rely on or give any weight to the doctor's opinion in finding that the required causal relationship existed.

Based on the postmortem examination there was medical evidence that decedent had suffered two myocardium infarcts. One of these occurring near the time of his death and being the cause of it, while the other had occurred sometime before and at the time of his death was in the healing stage. In arriving at a finding of causality the Commissioner begins with the premise that decedent had never been afflicted with a heart condition or exhibited any symptoms of a heart ailment prior to the date of his accident.

From this he proceeds by finding: 'That as a result of his accident said decedent suffered continuous and painful symptoms of cardiac impairment dating from the date of his injury to the date of his death.' The medical testimony does not refer to any of the symptoms he exhibited as 'symptoms of cardiac impairment'. To determine what the Commissioner has reference to we may properly refer to his memorandum of decision. Christiansen v. Strand, 81 S.D. 187, 147 N.W.2d 415. They are therein designated 'bridging symptoms' and stated thus:

'the severe blow to the left clavicle suffered at the time of the accident; reoccurring chest and back pains; weakness; faintness; painful breathing; gray pallor; nausea, and such which no doubt strained the capabilities and placed an undue and terrific strain on decedent's heart and eventually resulting in his...

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23 cases
  • Orth v. Stoebner & Permann Const., Inc.
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • November 15, 2006
    ...offered to support the claim. Hanten, 1997 SD 3, ¶ 10, 558 N.W.2d at 78; Wold, 269 N.W.2d at 116; and Podio v. American Colloid, 83 S.D. 528, 534, 162 N.W.2d 385, 388 (1968). [¶ 86.] The appellant's evidence on causation, resting on an imprecise one-paragraph letter that the doctor did not ......
  • Fechner v. Case
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • April 9, 2003
    ...779 (1966). A jury may reject an expert's opinion where its foundation has been eroded. Bridge, supra; Podio v. American Colloid Company, 83 S.D. 528, 532, 162 N.W.2d 385, 387 (1968). [¶ 9.] Unbuttressed by objective tests, Lawlor's opinion depended on the truthfulness of Fechner's represen......
  • Lawler v. Windmill Restaurant
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • October 12, 1988
    ...field is one in which laymen ordinarily are unqualified to express an opinion. Wold, 269 N.W.2d at 115; Podio v. American Colloid Co., 83 S.D. 528, 534, 162 N.W.2d 385, 388 (1968). In the present case, the aforementioned principles mandate that Lawler demonstrate a causal connection between......
  • Schmidt v. Royer
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • January 14, 1998
    ...upon which it is based. Such testimony proves nothing if its factual basis is not true[.]"); see also Podio v. American Colloid Co., 83 S.D. 528, 532, 162 N.W.2d 385, 387 (1968) ("Obviously [an expert's] opinion has no probative force unless the premises upon which it is based are shown to ......
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