University of Florida v. Massie, No. 76414

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtMcDONALD; SHAW; SHAW
Citation602 So.2d 516
PartiesUNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, et al., Petitioners, v. Emmett H. MASSIE, Respondent. 602 So.2d 516, 76 Ed. Law Rep. 1243, 17 Fla. L. Week. S306
Docket NumberNo. 76414
Decision Date28 May 1992

Page 516

602 So.2d 516
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, et al., Petitioners,
v.
Emmett H. MASSIE, Respondent.
No. 76414.
602 So.2d 516, 76 Ed. Law Rep. 1243, 17 Fla. L. Week. S306
Supreme Court of Florida.
May 28, 1992.
Rehearing Denied Aug. 17, 1992.

Page 517

David A. McCranie of McConnaughhay, Roland, Maida, Cherr & McCranie, Jacksonville, for petitioners.

Terence J. Kann, Jacksonville, for respondent.

H. George Kagan of Miller, Kagan & Chait, P.A., Deerfield Beach, amicus curiae for Florida Employers Service Corp.

Harold E. Regan, Tallahassee, amicus curiae for Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers.

McDONALD, Justice.

The University of Florida and the Division of Risk Management petition this Court to review Massie v. University of Florida, 570 So.2d 963 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990), in which the First District Court of Appeal reversed the deputy commissioner's denial of Massie's application for modification of a previously entered order denying him workers' compensation. The district court held that the deputy commissioner erred by not allowing modification pursuant to section 440.28, Florida Statutes (1985), because of "a complete absence of evidence to support the finding of fact in the prior order." Id. at 977. The district court also held that its prior decision approving the deputy commissioner's denial of compensation resulted in manifest injustice which justified an exception to the law of the case

Page 518

doctrine. We find conflict with Power v. Joseph G. Moretti, Inc., 120 So.2d 443 (Fla.1960), and Victor Wine & Liquor, Inc. v. Beasley, 141 So.2d 581 (Fla.1961). 1 For the reasons expressed below, we quash the decision of the district court and direct that the order of the deputy commissioner denying modification be reinstated.

The deputy commissioner wrote the following in his original order dated February 17, 1984:

6. The claimant testified that immediately upon commencing his duties as Director of Engineering for WUFT-TV-FM in July 1979, he was required to work long hours, often ten to twelve hours per day, for as many as six or seven days a week. This condition continued from the commencement of his duties through October of 1980, when the WUFT-TV transmitting tower satellite dish and microtransmitters were destroyed in an airplane crash. In order to meet that emergency, the claimant's hours increased to as many as eighteen hours per day, with this condition lasting for one or two months, before the claimant was able to shorten his hours. These hours were necessitated not only by the emergency created when the tower was destroyed, but also due to the move of WUFT-TV from the station building to Weimer Hall on the University of Florida campus. It was noted that the station was also undergoing extensive expansion during this period which also required the acquisition of a considerable amount of new equipment. During this entire period of time, the Engineering Division was plagued by unusually high turnover, which was in the neighborhood of 86% during the Claimant's first year. The claimant testified that during the first year or two of his employment with the University, he was pressured by the FM Station Manager to purchase equipment for the FM station in a manner that would not comply with the Florida statutory and regulatory requirements. He testified that this caused him considerable pressure as he was the individual directly responsible and accountable for purchasing of broadcast equipment for WUFT-TV-FM during this period of time. Partially as a result of the above-described conflict, the claimant's job descriptions underwent revisions, beginning in early 1981. It was not until approximately August of 1982 that the revision process was completed and during much of the intervening period two job descriptions continued to be in existence, both of which concerned the position of Director of Engineering. This testimony was corroborated by the claimant's witnesses and was not contradicted by the Employer/Carrier.

7. The claimant also testified that he suffered his most severe attack of disability from multiple sclerosis in April of 1980; that he went to bed one night and the next day when he got up he could not get out of bed, could not control his right leg or right arm, and as a result of that attack stayed in bed for two days. He slowly started regaining the use of his arm and leg and returned to work. He testified that no unusual or sudden event occurred on or before the day of that attack.

8. The claimant also testified that he suffered several additional but less severe exacerbations of his multiple sclerosis in November of 1980, but again did not relate those attacks to any unusual or sudden events at work.

9. The claimant testified that he was never in pain, that in the summer and fall of 1981, his condition worsened, he had several more attacks that lasted two or three days, his balance was bad and he would just fall down. As a result, he had to reduce his work load and continued to work but on a substantially lighter schedule cutting down to as little as two to three hours a day and even less until on the first Friday of July 1983, when he could no longer function and resigned his position.

10. I find that the claimant's multiple sclerosis condition pre-existed his employment with the University of Florida.

Page 519

The medical testimony reveals that multiple sclerosis is a progressive, non-curable debilitating disease. Its cause is unknown. The testimony further indicates that stress can accelerate or exacerbate multiple sclerosis, however, I find that the stress which the claimant testified to over a long period of time was not to an extent greater than that to which the general public is exposed, was not an exposure peculiar to and constituting a hazard of his employment operating upon the physical condition of the claimant. The claimant must have been subject to more that the ordinary hazards confronting people generally. Job pressure and long hours of work in and of itself have never been held to be factors which result in entitlements under the Workers' Compensation Act. Indeed, if job pressure and stress were compensable, there would be no end to compensable claims under the Act, as in today's world, all gainful activities are subject to the disease. Unlike Festa v. Teleflex, Inc., 382 So.2d 111 (Fla. 1st DCA 1980), the claimant was not subjected to repeated trauma. Stress while it may exacerbate multiple sclerosis, or for that matter many other organic diseases, is in the nature of psychological trauma and is not compensable. See Polk Nursery Company, Inc. v. Reilly [Riley], 433 So.2d 1233 (Fla. 1st DCA 1983). I therefore find that the claimant has not suffered a compensable accident and that his permanent total disability is not covered under the Workers' Compensation Act.

On February 23, 1984, Massie filed a motion to vacate and set aside, or to amend, the deputy commissioner's order. At the hearing on the motion, Massie asserted that the deputy commissioner's earlier finding, that Massie's stress was no greater than that to which the general public is exposed, was without evidentiary support. The following exchange took place on the record:

MR. KANN [Massie's counsel]: I'm going to file an appeal, Judge. I would like the order to go up, if it has to go up on appeal, with the accurate findings of fact specifically on that stress. I haven't heard, uh, addressed at all, uh, by Mr. Clayton and my point is there was no conflicting evidence on that. That man had a pressure packed stressful job. Everybody that came here told the Court he did, yet the findings in the Court order were that it wasn't.

THE COMMISSIONER: Just present the facts. I just don't think that the situation fits the, uh, philosophy of Workers' Compensation.

MR. KANN: Well, understanding the Court's position on that situation, I am--

THE COMMISSIONER: Now, I got reversed in Ross, but, uh, I didn't agree with the reversal.

MR. KANN: Judge, the order has this language--I find that the stress which the claimant testified to, uh, over a long period of time was not to an extent greater than that which the general public is exposed. There's no support for that finding.

THE COMMISSIONER: I know there's no support for it, but that's what I found. I don't, uh, listen. If I, you don't think that this is a stressful situation, sitting here?

The deputy commissioner denied Massie's motion by order dated March 9, 1984. The First District Court of Appeal affirmed the deputy commissioner, finding that "because there was expert testimony that Massie's stress was not 'unusual' and that job stress causes 'everyone' to have difficulty, we must hold that the deputy's holding was supported by competent substantial evidence." Massie v. University of Florida, 463 So.2d 383, 384 (Fla. 1st DCA), review denied, 472 So.2d 1181 (Fla.1985) [hereafter Massie I ]. In reaching this decision the district court noted that stress is an emotional condition which is difficult to qualify and that prior cases had dealt with physical hazards.

On August 22, 1985, Massie filed a request for modification of the deputy commissioner's prior order, pursuant to section

Page 520

440.28, Florida Statutes (1985), 2 alleging a change in his condition or a mistake in the deputy commissioner's determination of facts. At the hearing on the request for modification, Massie admitted that there had been no change in his condition. However, Massie's job placement expert, Alan Pappas, testified that his testimony at the original hearing had been taken out of context by the district court, that he had not testified that Massie's stress was not unusual, that Massie's stress at work was unusual, and that on a scale of one to ten, Massie's stress would rate "eight or nine." The deputy commissioner denied the request for modification by order dated April 30, 1986, and, finding that the request was filed without reasonable grounds, taxed the costs of the...

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8 practice notes
  • Liberti v. Walt Disney World Co., No. 94-533-CIV-ORL-19.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • September 8, 1995
    ...Florida Supreme Court decisions. Byrd v. Richardson-Green-shields Securities, 552 So.2d 1099 (Fla.1989); University of Florida v. Massie, 602 So.2d 516 (Fla.1992); compare, City of Holmes Beach v. Grace, 598 So.2d 71 (Fla.1992). Therefore, Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on the Defe......
  • Zundell v. Dade County School Bd., No. 91-1848
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • December 15, 1992
    ...where it could not be reliably proven that the industry brought about the injury. The supreme court in University of Florida v. Massie, 602 So.2d 516 (Fla.1992), cautioned against such an attempt by this court to legislate. Id. at Further, this court has applied the tenets of Victor Wine an......
  • Publix Super Markets, Inc. v. McGuire, No. 92-884
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • October 12, 1993
    ...test of compensability to "other internal failures of the cardiovascular system." 362 So.2d at 1341; University of Florida v. Massie, 602 So.2d 516, 521 (Fla.1992). In Zundell, which was decided subsequent to the date of the hearing in the instant case, we rejected the principle that "a pre......
  • Zundell v. Dade County School Bd., No. 81057
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • March 10, 1994
    ...say that job-related stress alone may not be sufficient to permit compensation in certain cases. E.g., University of Florida v. Massie, 602 So.2d 516, 526 (Fla.1992). While that may be true based on the facts of specific cases, 5 see id., it is not always so, as other cases clearly show. Fo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8 cases
  • Liberti v. Walt Disney World Co., No. 94-533-CIV-ORL-19.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • September 8, 1995
    ...Florida Supreme Court decisions. Byrd v. Richardson-Green-shields Securities, 552 So.2d 1099 (Fla.1989); University of Florida v. Massie, 602 So.2d 516 (Fla.1992); compare, City of Holmes Beach v. Grace, 598 So.2d 71 (Fla.1992). Therefore, Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on the Defe......
  • Zundell v. Dade County School Bd., No. 91-1848
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • December 15, 1992
    ...where it could not be reliably proven that the industry brought about the injury. The supreme court in University of Florida v. Massie, 602 So.2d 516 (Fla.1992), cautioned against such an attempt by this court to legislate. Id. at Further, this court has applied the tenets of Victor Wine an......
  • Publix Super Markets, Inc. v. McGuire, No. 92-884
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • October 12, 1993
    ...test of compensability to "other internal failures of the cardiovascular system." 362 So.2d at 1341; University of Florida v. Massie, 602 So.2d 516, 521 (Fla.1992). In Zundell, which was decided subsequent to the date of the hearing in the instant case, we rejected the principle that "a pre......
  • Zundell v. Dade County School Bd., No. 81057
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • March 10, 1994
    ...say that job-related stress alone may not be sufficient to permit compensation in certain cases. E.g., University of Florida v. Massie, 602 So.2d 516, 526 (Fla.1992). While that may be true based on the facts of specific cases, 5 see id., it is not always so, as other cases clearly show. Fo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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