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DAVID FLAKE v. RANDLE REED TRUCKING CO.

OCTOBER 10, 1984

DAVID FLAKE
v.
RANDLE REED TRUCKING CO., and SOUTH CAROLINA INSURANCE COMPANY



BEFORE BOWLING, HAWKINS AND SULLIVAN

BOWLING, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

This Workers' Compensation case comes from the Circuit Court of Winston County from an order of the circuit court reversing an order of the Workers' Compensation Commission. The commission had affirmed an order of the administrative judge. We find that the circuit court's order of reversal was erroneous and that the unanimous order of the commission should be reinstated.

This appeal involves an area of Workers' Compensation law that has given difficulty over the years; that is injuries to fingers and hands. Appellant, David Flake, was injured on October 15, 1980, when his left hand was caught in a loader while appellant was working around a brick-hauling truck. Appellant was seen after the accident by Dr. John T. Copeland, Jr., of Starkville. His examination revealed two fractures in the third or ring finger. The skin and flesh of the middle or second finger were seriously injured.

 Appellant was treated by Dr. Copeland until November 7, 1980, when he was discharged from medical treatment.

 On March 2, 1981, at the request of appellee, carrier, Dr. Copeland examined appellant and evaluated his injuries and disability. It was the doctor's opinion that appellant had a thirteen percent (13%) permanent impairment of his second finger and a four percent (4%) permanent impairment of the third finger. Dr. Copeland found that appellant had an inability to either extend or flex the affected fingers to normal positions. Appellant was unable to perform what laymen call" making a fist. "Dr. Copeland found that appellant had a seventeen percent (17%) permanent disability to his left hand as a whole.

 Appellant testified that he could not grip tightly with his hand because of his stiff fingers and that this

 often caused him to drop things he was attempting to lift. It was often necessary for him to lift things with his palms instead of trying to use his hand.

 The administrative judge found that appellant suffered total disability from the date of his injury on October 15, 1980, until he was released by Dr. Copeland on November 7, 1980, but that as verified by Dr. Copeland, appellant did not reach maximum medical recovery until December 8, 1980. The administrative judge further found that because of the multiple finger injury, the permanent disability involving the injury should be handled as a seventeen percent (17%) permanent disability to the hand as a whole.

 The full commission unanimously affirmed the order of the administrative judge, but amended a part of the order specifically holding that claimant achieved maximum medical improvement on November 7, 1980, after which he suffered a" seventeen percent (17%) medical impairment to the left hand. "Appellee, carrier, in its appeal to the circuit court, successfully contended that the permanent disability resulting from appellant's injury should be a percentage of disability to the fingers only and not the hand as a whole. The circuit court agreed with appellant and reversed the order of the full commission stating:

 The Full Commission Order is prejudicially erroneous in that it fails to follow Section 8 (c)(9)(10) and (23) of the Mississippi Workmen's Compensation Act as interpreted and applied by the Supreme Court of Mississippi in Luker v. Greenville Sheet Metal Works, 240 Miss. 378, 127 So. 2d 863 (1961), which this Court finds controlling of the issues involved herein;

 FURTHER, the Court finds there is not substantial evidence upon which to base the Full Commission Order and the same should be and hereby is reversed.

 The circuit court ordered that the claimant be paid on the basis of thirteen percent (13%) disability to the second finger of the left hand and four percent (4%) disability to the third finger of the left hand.

 Appellee contends that the circuit court was correct in its findings of fact, as applied to the existing law

 set out in Mississippi Code Annotated, Section 71-3-17 tSupp. 1983). Since this Court began reviewing Workers' Compensation cases after the passage of the law by the legislature in 1948, it has been held by the Court that the Workers' Compensation Commission's orders should not be overturned by appellate courts unless manifest error is shown and the commission's interpretation of the facts as applied to applicable law should be affirmed unless manifestly wrong. We recognize that during all these years the same appellate duty to review facts has been set ...


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