Radcliffe v. Southern Aviation School

Decision Date27 November 1946
Docket Number15891.
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court

Appeal from Common Pleas Circuit Court of Kershaw County; G. Duncan Bellinger Judge.

Workman's compensation proceeding by B.J. Radcliffe, employee, opposed by Southern Aviation School, employer, and great american Indemnity Company, insurer, for disability and disfigurement. From a judgment reversing an award of the Industrial commission, claimant appeals.

The order of Judge Bellinger follows:

This case comes before me upon appeal by the Southern Aviation School, Employer, and Great American Indemnity Company Insurance Carrier, defendants, from the award of the full Commission of the South Carolina Industrial Commission for disability and disfigurement, rendered August 8, 1944.

The cause was first heard before Commissioner W. Raymond Johnson at Camden, South Carolina, on April 27, 1944, and he filed his award on June 15, 1944, and from this award an appeal was taken to the full Commission, which affirmed the award of Commission Johnson with certain modifications of findings of fact. In the time prescribed by law the case was appealed to the Court of Common Pleas for Kershaw County.

The evidence before the commission shows that the claimant, B.J Radcliffe, had for several months prior to December 12, 1943 when he suffered a stroke of paralysis, been working for Southern Aviation School as a guard. At the time of the occurrence, out of which the claim arises, claimant's hours of duty were from three o'clock in the afternoon until eleven o'clock at night. He was required to walk posts 5 and 6 for a part of these hours and then shift to posts 3 and 4 for the remaining hours of his tour of duty. When he first began his work with the School he was assigned to one post, but owing to a shortage of help it became necessary to assign the guards to more than one post and rotate them. On December 12, 1943, while walking one of these posts, claimant suffered the stroke of paralysis, out of which the claim arose. He testified that the night was clear and that it was "kind of cold"; that when he reached posts 3 and 4 he "was walking, examining the planes and--got excited, and took shortness of breath guarding them." He testified that he had an illness in August, 11942, one in October 1942, and another in December, 1942, and had been attended by Dr. west. Dr. Blanchard had been treating him for high blood pressure several years before the paralytic stroke in question. That as a result of illness in December, 1942, he had been paid disability insurance, commencing December 21, 1942, by the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company. It was his impression that prior to suffering the stroke of paralysis in question he was under the impression that Dr. west had informed him that he was suffering from the effects of high blood pressure.

Dr. F.A. Blanchard, a witness for the claimant, testified that he had known Mr. Radcliffe for about thirteen years and had been treating him for five or six years previous to December 12, 1943, the time of the alleged accident, for high blood pressure.

Dr. Carl A. West, a witness for the defendant, testified that he had treated the claimant for high blood pressure, nervous condition and his heart's action from October 29, 1942 until December 31, 1942. In February, 1944, Dr. west examined the claimant, and found the blood pressure to be same as that in December, 1942. In the opinion of this doctor the stroke suffered by the claimant, while walking his posts on December 12, 1943, was due to high blood pressure that he had suffered for several years. Upon his examination of the claimant after the stroke he found no external injury of any kind. In his opinion the stroke of paralysis suffered by the claimant could have occurred anywhere as the natural result of high blood pressure. In the record we find the following question asked Dr. West by Commissioner Johnson:

"Just a minute. Let me clear that up. I think we are spending too much time on the high blood pressure prior to the accident, which has already been admitted by everyone. The fact that you have got to determine or break down isn't the fact that he had high blood pressure prior to the accident or how bad he had it, but it is a known fact that he worked for a period of practically a year for the same company on the same job, but on this particular night he was doubled up; he was walking two posts when he was only employed to walk one. He had extra work put on him that caused him to walk--to cover two posts. Then you have got to determine whether exertion was caused by overloading him with work; that is a fact that has got to be brought out, whether he was walking two posts instead of one. If he had a dormant case of high blood pressure and was able to do his work and then extra work put on him, to cause him to have to do more work in the same amount of time to the point of aggravating the high blood pressure that brought about his stroke, it is compensable, if the high blood pressure was aggravated by the extra work; if there was an aggravation of any pre-existing condition it is compensable." (Italics supplied.)

Under further cross-examination by the defendant's attorney, the following transpired:

"Q. Now you have heard Mr. Radcliffe's statement about what he was doing on that particular night. Would you say in your medical opinion that the ordinary walking of that kind without any excitement, without any alarms in carrying on a job such as he was carrying on--would that in itself be sufficient, in your opinion, to cause a stroke of paralysis? A. I judge from what the Judge (Commissioner) said he said, although, I didn't get it from Mr. Radcliffe, that he had two-- he did two men's work. Is that true? If that is true I would be forced to say it possibly might have precipitated--

"The Court (Commissioner): He testified that he walked one post at the beginning and then he was put on posts 5 and 6; he was put on posts 5 and 6 due to a shortage of help, due to the sickness of one of the guards. On this particular night he was put on 5 and 6 and then moved to the end of the field on the posts 2 and 3--or 3 and 4--I don't know which it was, walking two posts. He was walking two posts and he only walked one post before.

"The Witness: If that is true I think I can say that certainly didn't help his high blood pressure."

At another point in the examination of Dr. West the following was developed:

"Q. Now, then coming back to Mr. Radcliffe's claim that he was probably walking two posts that night, as I understand walking two posts means that he has certain territory, that he walked on level ground without any alarms or excitement, would you, in your opinion, say that that in itself was sufficient to cause this man to have a stroke of paralysis. A. I wouldn't say that it specifically caused it.

"Q. Isn't it true whether he had a stroke, or didn't have a stroke would be largely controlled by his own actions?

A. Yes sir.

"Q. In other words, a man suffering from that condition can put himself in an excitable condition that might precipitate it? A. Yes, sir."

Again the witness testified that in claimant's condition he would have probably eventually suffered a stroke. On cross examination the doctor was asked the question.

"Q. Doctor, the exertion of walking and excitement could have caused his blood pressure to go up? A. Yes, sir, exertion."

He stated further that if the blood pressure had gone up that could possibly have caused the stroke.

A. B. Campbell, who was Chief of the guards, and in charge of them, testifying for the defendant, stated that in December, 1943, the guards were rotated on their posts. Claimant's regular assignment was post 6, and at night he was rotated on that post and another post. The duty of the guard was to look out for fires and to see that nothing took place that would be a detriment to the airplanes and other property. The reason assigned by chief Campbell for rotating the guards was that it was done in order that a guard would not be subjected too long to cold weather. He testified that there was a guard house provided with a heater where the guards could go and get warm. The guards were not required to walk fast, they did not carry an extra weight and that they had one day off a week. At the time the claimant suffered the stroke of paralysis there had been no alarms of any kind and the planes were grounded. Nothing had occurred that would have required the claimant to walk his post at a faster rate than usual. On the occasion in question the mechanics were working on the planes and nothing occurred to cause the claimant, or anyone, to become excited. The claimant would commence walking at post 3 and then go on his next post and return to his original post. This caused the claimant to walk in a circle. When the claimant would walk to the end of one post and enter upon the other another guard followed him on the post that claimant had left. The claimant did not walk backwards and forwards on one post, but he started on post 3, continued to post 4, then to post 5 and from there to post 6 and then back to post 3, forming a circle.

The appeal involves seven separate exceptions with several sub-divisions thereto. These exceptions are substantially the same exceptions taken from the award of the Single Commissioner to the Full Commission. For a final disposition of this appeal it is not necessary that this order set out in detail the grounds for appeal. In the argument before me these exceptions were generally placed under two headings, as follows:

(1) Did the claimant suffer an accident within the meaning of the Workmen's Compensation Law?

(2) Was it proper for the hearing...

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    • United States
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