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ELZA FOUGHT v. STUART C. IRBY COMPANY

APRIL 06, 1988

ELZA FOUGHT
v.
STUART C. IRBY COMPANY, AND LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY



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

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

This is another of those troublesome cases in which an employee argues that her admitted mental or psychological disability is sufficiently job connected that she is entitled to workers' compensation. The Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission found that claimant had failed to establish the requisite connection between her employment and her injury, rather, that her disability was attributable to a pre-existing personality disorder. Consistent therewith, the Commission denied benefits. By virtue of the familiar substantial evidence rule limiting our scope of appellate review, we affirm.

 II.

 A.

 Elza Fought (Fought) was born on October 8, 1933. When she resigned from her position at Stuart C. Irby Company (Irby or employer) on May 12, 1981, she was 47 years old. Fought has a high school education and some business school training. She had been employed in clerical/secretarial positions, off and on, since she was 14 years old.

 In July, 1974, Fought was hired by Irby to perform office/clerical duties in its Vicksburg store. Her supervisor, and the manager of the Vicksburg store, at that time was Guy Hegwood. Before long, Fought began developing

 the sale of residential lighting fixtures into a more profitable department. On June 1, 1975, Fought began receiving a three percent commission in addition to her salary. That commission was reduced to 1.5 percent of total sales, effective March 1, 1978. This decrease was not a penalty, but rather, was designed to bring Fought's compensation in line with that of other sales people. From June, 1975, through March, 1978, Fought received several letters of praise from Winston Graves (Graves), who was at that time Irby's Vice-President and General Manager.

 In January, 1979, Hugh Fonville, who had been Assistant Manager, became Manager of the Vicksburg store. In May, 1981, he moved up in the company and Michael Vail (Vail) moved in as the Vicksburg Manager. Fought complains that, approximately six weeks after Vail arrived, he called her into his office and told her "he was not satisfied with [her] lack of initiative, that [her] absences were a real problem." Vail's records reflect that between January, 1979, and June, 1980, Fought had taken twenty (20) sick days. Fought testified about her reaction to this criticism:

 . . . my feelings were shock, disbelief, I got dizzy, I got lightheaded. I held onto the facing of the door until I could get to the bathroom, which was just three or four steps across the hall. I let the top down on the commode and I sat there for fifteen or twenty minutes trying to get up. . . I stayed there a total of thirty to forty-five minutes before I could regain my composure enough to get up.

 No one else testified that they knew about or observed this occurrence. Vail testified that he did not notice if Fought got upset as a result of this meeting and added that "it was not unusual for Elza to spend quite a bit of time in the bathroom."

 Fought and Vail continued to have periodic meetings, and Vail gave her lists of long and short-range objectives she was to accomplish, which were in addition to existing responsibilities. According to Fought, these new responsibilities included assembling and hanging a certain number of fixtures per week, seeing that damaged fixtures were repaired or replaced, and, devising a plan for bringing up sales or reducing inventory. From time to time, other responsibilities were added.

 Fought routinely informed Vail that she did not have time to accomplish these goals. Her position is and was that

 Vail was attempting to intimidate her and held these periodic meetings for purpose of harassment and in an attempt to force her to resign. In September of 1980, on the day that yearly inventory was to begin, Fought did in fact resign. However, she returned to work the next day and told Vail that ...


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