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DELTA DRILLING COMPANY AND AETNA CASUALTY AND SURETY COMPANY v. THOMAS L. CANNETTE

MAY 21, 1986

DELTA DRILLING COMPANY AND AETNA CASUALTY AND SURETY COMPANY
v.
THOMAS L. CANNETTE



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, P. J.; DAN M. LEE AND ROBERTSON, JJ.

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT :

I.

This workers' compensation appeal presents questions regarding the adequacy of proof to establish a work connected injury and disability, the authority of the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission to reopen the evidentiary record to direct the taking of additional testimony, and finally whether the evidence here suggests an apportioned award. Not formally raised but of greater concern is the inordinate delay which has been encountered in bringing this matter to a conclusion - the injury having occurred on October 3, 1980, and the motion to controvert having been filed on April 3, 1981.

 For the reasons explained below, we hold that the evidence adequately established that Claimant sustained a work connected injury and that the procedural indulgences granted Claimant by the Commission en route were well within the Commission's authority and discretion. Because we are of the opinion that the evidence overwhelmingly establishes that a part of Claimant's disability is the proximate result of a preexisting handicap, disease or lesion, we vacate the judgment below and remand for the entry of an apportioned award.

 II.

 Thomas L. Cannette, Claimant below and Appellee here, was born on February 10, 1944, and is now some 42 years of age. Cannette has not worked since October 3, 1980. He has a third grade education, can neither read nor write and has spent most of his adult life as a roughneck on oil rigs. Many of these years have been spent in the service of Delta Drilling

 Company, Employer herein and one of the Appellants herein.

 The parties have stipulated that Cannette is permanently, totally, occupationally disabled.

 On October 3, 1980, Cannette was working for Delta Drilling on Rig No. 56 outside of Columbia, Mississippi. His description of his injury appears in the record as follows:

 We were tripping pipe . . . . The driller was brand new on the rig. He didn't know nothing about it. . . . I've got a belt on, and I reach out and put rope around the drill pipe and pull it in. . . . You've got five or six inches before the pipe sits on the board, the driller slaps on the handle, the brake handle. You've got a twenty to twenty-five ton block holding that and if you have got a wrap around it and already pulling . . . when he slams down on the brake the drill pipe and block will sling on you. . . . . When he did that he just pulled me half in two . . . . It felt like all my bottom slapped to my head. . . it wasn't two or three stands and he pushed down on the handle again. . . . He was getting nervous. . . . Last time he pulled, I felt like everything tore loose. I felt like my whole guts were tore loose. I felt like my whole guts were coming out of my stomach. . . As I was getting in my car, I got halfway and I had to stop and I started throwing up. . .

 The only other witness who testified was Dr. Jerry R. Adkins. After several false starts, Dr. Adkins supplied medical expert testimony regarding the work connectedness of Cannette's injury and disability.

 On May 19, 1982, the Administrative Judge entered an order dismissing Cannette's claim on grounds that the evidence failed to establish a compensable injury which arose out of and in the course and scope of Cannette's employment. After considerable procedural maneuverings to be noted later, the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission on May 27, 1983, entered its order in lieu of the order of the Administrative Judge finding that Cannette had indeed sustained a compensable work connected injury and ordering Delta Drilling Company, Employer, and Aetna Life and Casualty Company,

 Carrier, to pay to Cannette permanent and total disability benefits at the rate of $98.00 per week beginning October 3, 1980, and continuing for a period not to exceed 450 weeks for a total sum of $44,100.00. Employer and Carrier were also ordered to provide reasonable and necessary medical services and supplies. Miss. Code Ann. 71-3-15 (1972). On January ...


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