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AETNA CASUALTY & SURETY CO. & ARVIN INDUSTRIES, INC. v. EARLINE ESPINOSA

JANUARY 23, 1985

AETNA CASUALTY & SURETY CO. & ARVIN INDUSTRIES, INC.
v.
EARLINE ESPINOSA



BEFORE PATTERSON, C.J., DAN LEE & ROBERTSON, JJ.

PATTERSON, CHIEF JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

This workmen's compensation case comes to us from the Circuit Court of Lee County. There Mrs. Earline Espinosa, the claimant, was awarded compensation benefits incident to a lower back injury she suffered on September 8, 1977, while employed at Arvin Industries.

Shortly after the physical injury the claimant experienced somatic pain. This mental pain syndrome left her totally functionally disabled with little hope of recovery.

 The decisive issue on this appeal is whether a previous adjudication denying compensation benefits was res judicata to the second proceeding on the claim. The question requires our scrutiny of Section 71-3-53, Mississippi Code Annotated (1972), to ascertain the legislative intention regarding reopening a compensation case. It provides:

 Upon its own initiative or upon the application of any party in interest on the ground of a change in conditions or because of a mistake in a determination of fact, the commission may, at any time prior to one (1) year after date of the last payment of compensation, whether or not a compensation order has been issued, or at any time prior to one (1) year after the rejection of a claim, review a compensation case, issue a new compensation order which may terminate, continue, reinstate, increase, or decrease such compensation, or award compensation. Such new order shall not affect any compensation previously paid, except that an award increasing the compensation rate may be made effective from the date of the injury; and if any part of the compensation due or to become due is unpaid, an award decreasing the compensation rate may be made effective from the date of the injury, and any payment made prior thereto in excess of such decreased rate shall be deducted from any unpaid compensation in such manner and by such

 method as may be determined by the commission.

 The initial hearing before the Administrative Judge culminated in an order of October 1, 1979, which awarded the claimant medical, temporary total, and temporary partial disability benefits. The time of maximum medical recovery was determined to be November 17, 1977. On March 25, 1980, the compensation commission affirmed the order of the administrative judge. Aggrieved, the carrier appealed to the Circuit Court of Lee County which reversed the commission's order on October 13, 1980.

 The final order of the circuit court states in pertinent part,

 A. That claimant failed to meet her burden of proof required when a claim is based on mental or emotional disability resulting from a physical injury;

 B. That there is no medical proof of any physical disability after November 17, 1977;

 C. That no benefits for disability are due to the claimant after November 17, 1977.

 The court then ordered and adjudged as follows," (3) That the decision and order of the Mississippi Workmen's Compensation Commission entered in this cause on March 25, 1980, be, and hereby is, reversed. "

 The aggrievance having thus been transferred to the claimant, an appeal was perfected to this Court from the order of the circuit court. Thereafter on February 19, 1981, the carrier moved to dismiss the appeal on the basis the claimant had not filed a brief within the time limitation of the Rules of this Court. The claimant then joined such motion and the appeal was dismissed on February 25, 1981. Although in the abortive appeal no brief was filed from which we could have sought enlightenment, nevertheless the cardinal issue, had the appeal been pursued, would necessarily have been whether the circuit court erred in not finding the existence of a causal connection between the claimant's ...


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