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JAMES WHITE, JR. v. SUPERIOR PRODUCTS

NOVEMBER 12, 1987

JAMES WHITE, JR.
v.
SUPERIOR PRODUCTS, INC., AND LUMBERMEN'S UNDERWRITING ALLIANCE



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, C.J.; ROBERTSON AND GRIFFIN, JJ.

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

In one sense today's is an unexciting workers compensation case wherein the party disappointed below challenges findings of fact made by the Commission. At issue, however, is whether our deference to Commission fact findings is as great when those favor employer and carrier as when they favor the claimant.

 Today's case concerns an unwitnessed accident. Only the claimant testified what happened. The Workers' Compensation Commission rejected his claim because it found his testimony not worthy of belief. Because limitations upon our scope of review have been established with indifference to the party in whose favor such issues have been decided, we affirm.

 II.

 A.

 James White, Jr., then 29 years of age, was and is a resident of Tupelo, Mississippi. White was employed by Superior Products, Inc., a mattress building firm, whose principal office is in Plantersville, Mississippi. On April 13, 1983, White claims that he sustained an injury on the job.

 White's testimony is summarized as follows: Between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. on the day in question, White says he was carrying about fifty pounds of mattress pads on his head when he slipped and fell to his knees. He says he continued working until about 6:00 and then had a co-worker, James Ivy, take him home whereupon he went to the emergency room at the North Mississippi Medical Center for treatment. On his way home that evening, White says he saw his supervisor, Eugene Heatherly, at the store. He told Heatherly that he had hurt his back, and Heatherly supposedly told White to bring in a doctor's excuse. White did not return to work for a week. He says he then returned for a week and three days, but his back got worse and he could no longer work. White had back surgery in July of 1983.

 Ike Russell, the general manager of Superior Products, testified that at no time while White was working at the company, did he, Russell, receive notice that White had injured himself. The time cards for that week showed that on April 13, the date of the alleged injury, White worked until 6:40 p.m. After the 13th, White began work again on April 20 and worked for thirteen days. During this period after the 13th, White was working ten to eleven hour days and running about twenty percent over production; "You have to work hard to do that." No one denies that this level of production was unusual for White. All employees are given a handbook in

 which it is explained the procedure for reporting job-related injuries. Yet Russell was not notified until the week of May 13 that White had been injured on the job. It was at this time that White was fired for absenteeism.

 White stated that a fellow employee, Jesse Carouthers, was an eyewitness. Carouthers, however, denied this. Carouthers stated he was working in the bedding department about thirty feet from White. He did not see White fall himself on April 13 and was not aware that White had claimed to be injured until the next week when White came back to work and told Carouthers that he had slipped a disc and was "walking kind of funny."

 Lonzo McPherson worked in the pinning department at Superior Products, the same department White was working in at the time in question. McPherson did not see White fall either. When White came back to work, he said his back was troubling him.

 James Ivy, who had worked in the same department as White at Superior Products, testified that he drove White home in White's car the day of the alleged injury because White said his back was hurting from a fall that morning. Ivy, however, never saw the fall. White and Ivy both got off at 6:00 p.m. and Ivy drove White home to Tupelo. On the way, they stopped at the store and White went inside and told the foreman (Heatherly) that he had hurt his back. The next day Ivy reminded the foreman that White had told him the day before that he had hurt his back and the foreman said "Yeah, I remember." Ivy had gotten White home the night of April 13 about 7:00 or 7:30 p.m.

 Ike Russell testified that he and the attorney for the company had interviewed Ivy in preparation for the hearing and that Ivy had said then that he didn't know anything - that he had driven White only a couple of blocks before realizing he couldn't operate ...


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