Alabama Supreme Court Reverses Court of Appeals and Reinstates Permanent Total Disability Award
On January 30, 2015, the Supreme Court of Alabama reversed the Alabama Court of Appeals' ruling in Madison Academy, Inc. v. Hanvey.�_ The Supreme Court granted the employee's Petition for Writ of Certiorari to review whether the Court of Civil Appeals erred in reversing the trial court's judgment awarding the employe permanent and total disability benefits. The trial court had found that in the absence of the exposure to chemical fumes at work, the employee would not have suffered the disability at the time, in the manner, or to degree that she did. The trial court had also found that the employee's pre-existing myasthenia gravis was worsened by her exposure to chemicals at work, and that as a result of that exposure, she was permanently and totally disabled. The Supreme Court noted that a trial court's findings of fact must be affirmed on appeal if they are supported by substantial evidence. The Supreme Court also noted that the appellate courts will not overturn the trial court's findings in regard to the extent of disability if those findings are supported by substantial evidence. The Supreme Court held that the trial court's findings were supported, and therefore could not be overturned. MY TWO CENTS Although the Supreme Court's ruling reversed the Court of Appeals and upheld the trial court's findings, it did not explicitly overrule the Court of Appeals' rejection of the notion that "no pre-existing condition is deemed to exist if the employee was able to perform the work of an uninjured person at the time of the injury." Instead, the Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeals cannot re-weigh the evidence, and that the factual findings of the trial court must be upheld on appeal if there is substantial evidence to support those findings, even when there is also substantial evidence that support contrary findings. ------------------------------------------ ABOUT THE AUTHOR This article was written by Charley M. Drummond, Esq. of Fish Nelson & Holden, LLC. Fish Nelson & Holden is a law firm located in Birmingham, Alabama dedicated to representing employers, self-insured employers, and insurance carriers in workers' compensation cases and related liability matters. Drummond and his firm are members of The National Workers' Compensation Defense Network (NWCDN). The NWCDN is a national and Canadian network of reputable law firms organized to provide employers and insurers access to the highest quality representation in workers' compensation and related employer liability fields. If you have questions about this article or Alabama workers' compensation issues in general, please feel free to contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or (205) 332-3414.