BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, P.J.; ROBERTSON AND SULLIVAN, JJ.
ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:
This workers' compensation death benefits case arises out of a worker's idiopathic fall and fatal striking of his head on a concrete floor upon his employer's premises. The worker did not trip, he did not slip nor was he pushed - he just fell. Evidence suggests he may have fallen as a result of a grand mal seizure. The immediate cause of death, however, was the blow to the head.
The Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission held the claim non-compensable for lack of the requisite work connection, and the Circuit Court affirmed. We reverse and render in part and remand in part.
Larry Ray Chapman died on the job on January 17, 1981, in Shubuta, Clarke County, Mississippi. At the time Chapman was 28 years of age, having been born on September 20, 1952. On the day of his death Chapman was employed as a material handler for Hanson Scale Company. Two co-workers, Oliver Leggett and Henry Lee Mack, were in the immediate vicinity of Chapman at the time of his death. Their testimony, in
substance, was that Chapman was assisting in some cleanup work. Chapman was seen pulling a wire basket toward the punch press area in the back of the plant. Mack saw Chapman stop, pull off his cap and wipe his forehead, then drop his cap and fall, his head striking the floor. Mack and Leggett and two other employees who had seen Chapman that morning all testified that prior to his fall Chapman's appearance and behavior were normal.
Leggett testified that immediately after the fall Chapman did not move or say anything. Leggett noticed that once Chapman was turned over he had a knot and cut above his left eye. Mack thought Chapman was dead before he was ever turned over. In any event, Chapman was rushed to the Watkins Hospital in Quitman, Mississippi, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Dr. Sergio G. Gonzalez, a Laurel, Mississippi pathologist, performed an autopsy at 8:00 the next morning. Dr. Gonzalez certified that cause of death was "cerebral contusion, concussion and edema due to blunt trauma to forehead." In other words, the immediate cause of death, according to Dr. Gonzalez, was Chapman's head striking a blunt or flat surface which, no doubt, was the concrete flooring of the Hanson Scale premises.
Dr. Loren Fleckenstein, a neurosurgeon of Meridian, Mississippi, described Chapman's pre-January 1981 medical history. Dr. Fleckenstein had first seen Chapman on July 22, 1980, as Chapman had suffered a grand mal seizure. At that time Dr. Fleckenstein gave Chapman a prescription to take dilantin three times a day. Subsequently Chapman had another seizure and Dr. Fleckenstein increased his medication. The evidence suggests that Chapman may have experienced as many as five seizures within an eight month period just prior to his death on January 17, 1981. Dr. Fleckenstein last saw Chapman on November 6, 1980. The drug screen performed by Dr. Gonzalez in connection with the autopsy showed that Chapman was free of any trace of drugs, which suggested that Chapman had not been taking his prescribed medication.
Procedurally, this workers' compensation proceeding was commenced on May 21, 1981, when Susie Chapman, on behalf of herself and her two children, filed a motion to controvert seeking death benefits. After several hearings, the Administrative Judge on September 19, 1983, found that Chapman "blacked out and fell to the concrete floor, receiving a fatal blow to his left forehead" while at his place of employment. The Administrative Judge further found that Chapman's death was not causally related to his employment and was the product
of a grand mal seizure on January 17, 1981, and that this seizure was the result of a personal preexisting condition. On March 13, 1984, the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission adopted the opinion of the Administrative Judge and affirmed. Thereafter, Claimant appealed to the Circuit Court of Clarke County, Mississippi, which on August 30, 1984, affirmed. The present appeal has followed.
The question presented upon this appeal is whether the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission erred in its conclusion that the connection between the employment of Larry Ray Chapman and his death on January 17, 1981, was ...