Kennamer Brothers, Inc. v. Stewart

Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama

222 So. 3d 1186 | Sept. 9, 2016


COURT OF CIVIL APPEALS OF ALABAMA AFFIRMS COMPENSABILITY RULING

Stewart was employed by Kennamer Brothers as a truck driver and suffered an injury to his shoulder in an auto accident that was found by the trial court to be compensable under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. Kennamer Brothers appealed the determination that Stewart’s injury was compensable, and the amount of retroactive Temporary Total Disability benefits awarded to Stewart. Judgment was affirmed in part and remanded in part.

The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals found that the trial court’s ruling was based on substantial evidence. Stewart did not report his shoulder injury until 5 months after the date of his injury. Stewart suffered from injuries to other parts of his body, and was taking prescribed pain medicine for those other injuries.

Stewart consulted multiple physicians for his various injuries, and ultimately had an MRI performed that revealed a shoulder tear. Stewart’s physician testified that the tear was consistent with an accident such as Stewart’s, and that although a shoulder tear is typically associated with immediate complaints of pain, it is possible that the prescription pain medication could have initially masked the nature and extent of Stewart’s shoulder pain.

In affirming the trial court’s ruling that Stewart’s injury was work-related, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals noted that Kennamer Brothers failed to offer any alternative explanation for how Stewart could have suffered his shoulder injury. Stewart testified at trial that he had not suffered any additional injury to his shoulder. The Court of Civil Appeals deferred to the judgment of the trial court’s determination of fact, which had the benefit of weighing the evidence at trial.

Also at issue, was the amount of Temporary Total Disability benefits awarder to Stewart, which was the maximum amount available from the time he stopped receiving payments, through the time that he was able to find suitable replacement employment. The trial court erred in increasing the maximum amount payable during a subsequent calendar year when the statutory minimum increased. Temporary Total Benefits were determined to be fixed at the time of the date of Stewart’s injury.

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