Tibbs v. Rowe Furniture Corp.

Decision Date17 April 1985
Docket NumberNo. 13816,13816
PartiesCurtis TIBBS, Employee-Appellant, v. ROWE FURNITURE CORPORATION, Employer-Respondent, and Hartford Insurance Company, Insurer-Respondent.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

Morris B. Kessler, St. Louis, for employee-appellant.

Richard K. Kuntze, Oliver, Oliver, Waltz & Cook, P.C., Cape Girardeau, for respondents.

PREWITT, Chief Judge.

The employee sought worker's compensation benefits for physical and mental conditions he claims were caused by an accident at work. He appeals from an award of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission affirming the award of an administrative law judge, granting him benefits only for the physical condition.

The scope of our review is stated in Mo. Const. Art. V, § 18 and § 287.495, RSMo Supp.1984. From them and their predecessors certain well-established principles have developed. Appellate courts review worker's compensation cases in the light most favorable to the award of the Commission and uphold the decision of the Commission if it is supported by competent and substantial evidence. Blissenbach v. General Motors Assembly Div., 650 S.W.2d 8, 11 (Mo.App.1983).

It is only when the Commission's award is not supported by substantial evidence or is clearly contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence do we disturb it. Bradshaw v. Brown Shoe Co., 660 S.W.2d 390, 392 (Mo.App.1983). However, when the facts on which the decision should turn are not in dispute, the award that should be entered becomes a matter of law. Ikerman v. Koch, 580 S.W.2d 273, 278 (Mo. banc 1979).

The Commission is charged with the responsibility of passing upon the credibility of witnesses, and it may disbelieve testimony of a witness though no contradictory or impeaching evidence is introduced. Blissenbach, supra, 650 S.W.2d at 11. A Commission's acceptance or rejection of part of a witness's testimony cannot be disturbed upon review, unless its acceptance or rejection is against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Id.

Other principles are also applicable. One of the purposes of the Worker's Compensation Act is to relieve the burden of workers incapacitated by injuries from the public and place the burden upon industry. Cox v. Copeland Bros. Construction Co., 589 S.W.2d 55, 61 (Mo.App.1979). In interpreting the Worker's Compensation Law all doubts are resolved in favor of the employee but not to the extent of validating a claim lacking some essential element. Ellis v. Western Electric Co., 664 S.W.2d 639, 641 (Mo.App.1984).

On August 4, 1981, while working for respondent, Rowe Furniture Corporation, appellant suffered a compensable accident when he cut the little finger of his left hand with an electric knife. He was awarded 10% permanent partial disability to his left little finger at the 16 week level and denied any benefits for the mental condition which he claims was "precipitated" or "triggered" by the accident. Appellant's mental condition was variously described as "schizophrenia, paranoid type" with "depressive components", "major depression with psychotic features", "major depressive agitated psychosis", "depressed psychosis", or "[a]typical paranoid disorder".

The administrative law judge found that a sufficient causal connection of appellant's mental condition with the accident was not shown, finding that appellant's "said mental disability was caused by an unsettled domestic situation, unfortunate social relationships, and financial difficulties. The fact his trauma of August 4, 1981 coincided with these problems was not a precipitating factor in contributing to his current mental health." The Commission adopted his findings.

Appellant contends that (1) "all of the evidence, both lay and expert, was that there was a chain of causation between the accident and the psychosis suffered by the Employee Appellant and this evidence is uncontroverted", and (2) the award was erroneous because it "adopted the medical 'sole cause' doctrine, as opposed to the legal concept which holds that the accident is a proximate cause of the disability even though it may have only been a contributory, concurrent or triggering factor."

Claimant is correct that an accident need not be the sole or direct cause of an injury to be compensable. It is sufficient if the accident is "an efficient, exciting, superinducing, concurring or contributing cause." Smith v. Cook Paint & Varnish Co., 561 S.W.2d 730, 732 (Mo.App.1978). See also Manley v. American Packing Co., 363 Mo. 744, 253 S.W.2d 165, 169 (1952).

Wynn v. Navajo Freight Lines, Inc., 654 S.W.2d 87 (Mo. banc 1983), indicates that evidence of causation is sufficient "if the actual triggering causes are found, on the basis of substantial evidence, to meet the 'job related' or 'work related' test of Wolfgeher [v. Wagner Cartage Service, Inc., 646 S.W.2d 781 (Mo. banc 1983) ]". 654 S.W.2d at 89-90. Boatwright v. ACF Industries, 463 S.W.2d 549, 554 (Mo.App.1971), found sufficient evidence to establish causation "that the accident did precipitate the development of the employee's psychoneurotic symptoms which functionally disabled him."

Thompson v. Railway Express Agency, 241 Mo.App. 683, 236 S.W.2d 36, 39 (1951), states that a neurosis can be compensable if causal connection with an accident sustained in the course of employment is proven by "clear evidence". That statement is reiterated in other opinions. See Webb v. Norbert Markway Construction Co., 522 S.W.2d 611, 614 n. 3 (Mo.App.1975); Todd v. Goostree, 493 S.W.2d 411, 417 (Mo.App.1973); Boatwright v. ACF Industries, supra, 463 S.W.2d at 551; and Patane v. Stix, Baer and...

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  • Hampton v. Big Boy Steel Erection, No. 85456 (Mo. 12/9/2003)
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • December 9, 2003
    ... ... Wood v. Wagner Electric Corp. , 197 S.W.2d 647, 649 (Mo. 1946). 2 Whether the award is supported by ... App. 1985); Katzenberger v. Gill , 690 S.W.2d 473 (Mo. App. 1985); Tibbs v. Rowe Furniture Corp., 691 S.W.2d 410 (Mo. App. 1985); O'Donnell v ... ...
  • Hampton v. Big Boy Steel Erection
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    ...Anderson v. Emerson Elec. Co., 698 S.W.2d 574 (Mo.App.1985); Katzenberger v. Gill, 690 S.W.2d 473 (Mo.App.1985); Tibbs v. Rowe Furniture Corp., 691 S.W.2d 410 (Mo.App.1985); O'Donnell v. Guarantee Elec. Co., 690 S.W.2d 190 (Mo. App.1985); Glickert v. Soundolier, Inc., 687 S.W.2d 674 (Mo.App......
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    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • March 7, 1989
    ...Inc., 429 S.W.2d 738, 749 (Mo.1968); Tate v. Southwestern Bell Telephone Co., 715 S.W.2d 326, 329 (Mo.App.1986); Tibbs v. Rowe Furniture Corp., 691 S.W.2d 410, 413 (Mo.App.1985). In this context, "probable" means that the claim appears to be founded in reason and experience that inclines th......
  • Barker v. Secretary of State's Office of Missouri
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • May 31, 1988
    ...settled in favor of that employee, but not to the extent of validating a claim which lacks an essential element. Tibbs v. Rowe Furniture Corp., 691 S.W.2d 410, 412 (Mo.App.1985). In the instant case the majority of the Commission, in affirming the ALJ's decision, finds an essential element ......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Resurrection of a dead remedy: bringing common law negligence back into employment law.
    • United States
    • Missouri Law Review Vol. 75 No. 3, June 2010
    • June 22, 2010
    ...Nooney Co., 646 S.W.2d 765, 772 (Mo. 1983)(en banc). Emotional damages require a heavier burden of proof. Tibbs v. Rowe Furniture Corp., 691 S.W.2d 410, 413 (Mo. App. S.D. 1985), overruled on unrelated grounds by Hampton, 121 S.W.3d 220. The credibility of less physical injuries is based on......

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