Spivey v. Battaglia Fruit Co., 31310

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtHOBSON; TERRELL
Citation138 So.2d 308
PartiesFrankie SPIVEY, Petitioner, v. BATTAGLIA FRUIT COMPANY, Inc., and Florida Industrial Commission, Respondents.
Docket NumberNo. 31310,31310
Decision Date21 February 1962

Robert E. Sheridan of Gurney, Gurney, & Handley, Orlando, for petitioner.

Jack C. Inman of Berson, Barnes & Inman, Orlando, Burnis T. Coleman and Paul E. Speh, Tallahassee, for respondents.

HOBSON, Justice.

Petitioner seeks by petition for writ of certiorari a review by this court of an order of the Florida Industrial Commission in a Workmen's Compensation proceeding, reversing the order of its deputy commissioner and denying to the petitioner benefits under the Florida Workmen's Compensation Act. Florida Statutes, Section 440.01 et seq., F.S.A.

At the time of the alleged injury petitioner had been working for the respondent Battaglia Fruit Company for approximately eight weeks as a packer of citrus fruit. Her work consisted of removing bruce boxes from a bin, packing them with fruit, then sliding them onto a moving conveyor. On the day in question she had been performing these tasks for approximately ten hours when she gradually started having pains in her back and legs. She does not recall the exact moment when the pains began but testified that she was packing grapefruit at the time. She continued working that evening and returned to work the next day. Because of the continuing pain, however, she ceased working after about two hours and sought medical treatment. Her condition was subsequently diagnosed as a herniated intervertebral disc. Corrective surgery was performed for which this claim was filed, together with a claim for other benefits under the Act.

The claim was contraverted on the grounds that claimant had not sustained an accident arising out of and in the course of her employment or alternatively, if there was such an accident that the petitioner's condition was not the result of the accident.

At the hearing on the claim evidence was introduced showing the circumstances of the injury to be substantially as summarized above. In addition it appeared that the claimant had had no prior history of back trouble and that in the opinion of the doctors who examined her the ruptured disc was causally related to the work which she was performing at the time she began to feel pain. The deputy commissioner entered an order awarding the claimant compensation benefits and held 'that a ruptured disc when caused by job activity as it occurred in this case constitutes an accident within the definition of the Workmen's Compensation Law'.

On application for review the full commission reversed. It was first held that the order of the deputy, which for the most part merely recited and summarized testimony which the deputy had heard, did not conform to the requisites of order writing as set forth in Hardy v. City of Harpon Springs, Fla., 81 So.2d 503; Andrews v. Strecker Body Builders, Fla., 92 So.2d 521; Ball v. Mann, Fla., 75 So.2d 758. The commission went on to hold, however, that based on the evidence which the deputy had before him there was no showing of any 'accident' within the meaning of the Workmen's Compensation Act. In so holding the commission relied on the case of Gray v. Employers Mutual Liability Insurance Company, Fla., 64 So.2d 650, which, as the commission recognized, established the 'unusual result' test as a criterion for the existence of an accident. 1 The commission went on to hold that the Gray case 'did not relieve the claimant of showing some event or circumstance connected with his work to which his injury can be directly attributed'. It is noteworthy that the commission, while extracting the above quoted language from the Gray case, quoted the word 'circumstance' in the singular, whereas in the Gray case it is plural. Gray v. Employers Mutual Liability Insurance Company, supra, at page 651. The difference, as will be hereinafter pointed out, is material.

The issue with which we are presented then is whether there was competent, substantial evidence to support the deputy's finding that the petitioner had suffered a compensable injury by accident within the meaning of the Workmen's Compensation Act.

Section 440.02(6) defines injury as follows

'The term 'injury' means personal injury or death by accident arising out of and in the course of employment, and such diseases or infection as naturally or unavoidably result from such injury.'

Section 440.02(19) provides in pertinent part:

"Accident' shall mean only an unexpected or unusual event or result, happening suddenly. * * * Where a pre-existing disease is accelerated or aggravated by accident arising out of and in the course of the employment, only acceleration of death or the acceleration or aggravation of disability reasonably attributable to the accident shall be compensable.'

As pointed out in the footnote one, supra, the words 'or result' were inserted in the above statutory provision by act of the 1953 Legislature. Section 440.09(1) provides in part:

'Compensation shall be payable under this chapter in respect of disability or death of an employee if the disability or death results from an injury arising out of and in the course of employment.'

A study of these statutes reveals that there are set forth several separate requirements which must be satisfied before it can be held that there has been an accident within the meaning of the act. First, there must be an unexpected or unusual event or result happening suddenly. It is plain from the statutory definition that the elements of unexpectedness and suddenness can refer to either an event or a result. The accident must also arise out of and in the course of employment. The words 'in the course of employment' refer to the time, place and circumstances under which the accident occurs while the words 'arising out of' refer to the origin or cause of the accident. Bituminous Casualty Corp. v. Richardson, 148 Fla. 323, 4 So.2d 378. In order to satisfy these requirements there must be some causal connection between the injury and the employment or the injury must have had its origin in some risk incident to or connected with the employment or have flowed from it as a natural consequence. Sweat v. Allen, 145 Fla. 733, 200 So. 348. It has been held that in order to establish the causal connection inherent in the requirement that the injury must arise 'out of' the employment, it must be shown that the injury was directly attributable to some event or circumstances connected with the accident. Martin v. Board of County Commissioners, Manatee County, Fla., 79 So.2d 513. However, it was stated by this court in S. H. Kress & Co. v. Burkes, 153 Fla. 868, 16 So.2d 106, that 'this court, as many others, has rejected the contention that in order to show an injury by accident some traumatic injury must be shown or some definite incident at a definite time and place must be shown.'

Turning now to the application of these principles to the instant case it unquestionably appears that there is competent, substantial evidence to show that the injury occurred in the course of employment. This element of proof is satisfied by the fact that the pain of the petitioner commenced while she was at work and by the testimony of the physician who subsequently examined her.

There was also testimony by the doctor that in his expert opinion the petitioner's herniated intervertebral disc was causally related to her activities while at work. This evidence was sufficient upon which to base a finding of causal relationship; that is, that the injury also arose out of the employment. As pointed out previously, the case of Gray v. Employers Mutual Liability Insurance Company, supra, states that 'the claimant [is required] to make a showing of some event or circumstances connected with his work to which his injury can be directly attributed.' (Emphasis supplied) Inasmuch as the plural word circumstances was used, it is clear that the court did not in that case mean that there must be any definite or particular circumstance to which the accident could be attributed, but only that the circumstances of the work were a causative factor of the injury. Thus we hold that the full commission erred in reversing the deputy's award on this point. See also Duff Hotel Company v. Ficara, 150 Fla. 442, 7 So.2d 790, wherein it is held that an unexpected injury received in the ordinary performance of a duty in a usual manner is an 'injury by accident within the purview of Workmen's Compensation without the showing of anything fortuitous.'

The remaining question with which we are confronted is whether the element of suddenness as required by the statute was established by competent, substantial evidence. In this regard, the following testimony of the claimant is pertinent:

'Q Now Mrs. Spivey before January of 1960 have you ever had any difficulty with your back of any nature?

'A No sir.

'Q When was the first time that you noticed anything concerning your back?

'A It was about 5:30 in the afternoon.

'Q Now do you remember what time of day you had gone to work?

'A Yes sir, 7:00 O'clock in the morning.

'Q And do you remember what you had done on January the 25th before you noticed any pain or discomfort in your back?

'A I hadn't done anything but pack the fruit, and shoving the boxes you know.

'Q Do you recall on that particular day what fruit you had packed before you felt the pain and discomfort?

'A I was packing the size ninety sixes and grapefruit in big bruce boxes.

* * *

* * *

'Q And you had just been packing grapefruit?

'A Yes sir.

'Q Now what size of boxes did you pack the grapefruit in?

'A In the large bruce boxes, about one and a half bushels to the box.

'Q Would you take those out of the bin and put them in the boxes?

'A Yes I would reach in the bin and take them and put them in the boxes.

'Q Now where would the box sit itself [sic], the grapefruit box?

'A Right there directly in front of me.

'Q And when you had...

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    ...precedent in construing the statutory definition of sudden accident in workers' compensation cases. Spivey v. Battaglia Fruit Co., 138 So.2d 308 (Fla.1962); Meehan v. Crowder, 158 Fla. 361, 28 So.2d 435 6 Likewise, we also reject the dissenters' argument that the term "sudden and accidental......
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