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MILLER TRANSPORTERS, INC. AND INDEMNITY INSURANCE COMPANY OF NORTH AMERICA v. JAMES C. GUTHRIE

DECEMBER 06, 1989

MILLER TRANSPORTERS, INC. AND INDEMNITY INSURANCE COMPANY OF NORTH AMERICA
v.
JAMES C. GUTHRIE



EN BANC

PITTMAN, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

Miller Transporters, Inc. and Indemnity Insurance Company of North America appealed a decision rendered by the Workers' Compensation Commission to the Circuit Court of Lowndes County. The Circuit Court affirmed the Order of the Commission and Miller Transporters, Inc. and Indemnity Insurance Company of North America appeal to this Court, basing their argument on two assignments of error. Finding these assignments meritless, we affirm.

I.

 In June of 1982, Mr. Guthrie injured his back while cutting the grass at his home. Mr. Guthrie was employed with Miller Transporters, Inc. as a truck driver, but does not claim that this injury was work-related. Mr. Guthrie was treated by Dr. Stanback for a ruptured disc, and was told to stay off work for two months. Upon Mr. Guthrie's return to work, his back continued to bother him and his condition worsened to the point that in March of 1983, Dr. Stanback referred Mr. Guthrie to Dr. Patrick, who performed disc surgery. Mr. Guthrie was off work for a period of six months, and was then allowed by Dr. Patrick to return to work. Dr. Lott, at the request of Miller Transporters, Inc., performed a Department of Transportation physical on Mr. Guthrie, and released him for work.

 Mr. Guthrie returned to Dr. Patrick in April, 1984, complaining of continuing back pain. Dr. Patrick instructed Mr. Guthrie to take off work for six more months. Mr. Guthrie then returned to work in either October or November, 1984, and attempted light duty for several months, but eventually had to quit because of his inability to perform even the light duty assigned. Mr. Guthrie's last work day was April 11, 1985, and in his Petition to Controvert, he listed on or before this date, as the date of his injury.

 After a hearing before an Administrative Judge, an Order was entered denying Mr. Guthrie benefits and finding that the injury to his back occurred outside the scope of his employment in June, 1982. This injury subsequently required surgery, from which Mr. Guthrie never recovered and his chronic back condition was not a result of his employment.

 The Full Commission, upon review, reversed the Administrative Judge, finding that Mr. Guthrie had sustained a work connected and thus compensable injury on April 11, 1985, and

 awarding continuing benefits for temporary total disability. The Commission also directed that Mr. Guthrie be evaluated by Dr. James L. Hughes, orthopedic surgeon at the University Medical Center. Miller Transporters, Inc. and Indemnity Insurance Company of North America (hereafter, Miller), appealed this decision to the Lowndes County Circuit Court, which upheld the findings of the Commission.

 II.

 Decisions of the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission on issues of fact will not be overturned if they are supported by substantial evidence. Myles v. Rockwell International, 445 So. 2d 528, 536 (Miss. 1983). The Commission is the trier of facts as well as the judge of the credibility of the witnesses. Roberts v. Junior Food Mart, 308 So. 2d 232, 234-35 (Miss. 1975). Doubtful cases should be resolved in favor of compensation, so as to fulfill the beneficial purposes of the statute. Reichold Chemical, Inc. v. Sprankle, 503 So. 2d 799, 802 (Miss. 1987); Barham v. Klumb Forest Products Center, Inc., 453 So. 2d 1300, 1304 (Miss. 1984).

 III.

 Miller contends that the overwhelming weight of the evidence shows that Mr. Guthrie's back problems and disability were not caused by his employment as a truck driver, but were solely caused by his non-work related injury of June, 1982. Miller further contends that Mr. Guthrie never fully recovered from the surgery of March, 1983, and that in workers' compensation cases there must be medical evidence of a causal connection between the claimant's disability and a work-related injury, to support an award of benefits. Cole v. Superior Coach Corp., 234 Miss. 287, 106 So. 2d 71, 72 (1958); See Davis v. Scotch Plywood Co. of Miss., 505 So. 2d 1192 (Miss. 1987); Sonford Products Corp. v. Freels, 495 So. 2d 468, 471-72 (Miss. 1986); and Delta Drilling Co. v. Cannette, 489 So. 2d 1378, 1380 (Miss. 1986). However, this Court has held that it is not necessary that an accidental injury result suddenly, nor that it result from the application of external force. Christopher v. City Grill, 67 So. 2d 694 (Miss. 1953), [quoting Hardin's Bakeries, Inc., v. Ranager, 64 So. 2d 705 (Miss. 1953); See Jenkins v. Ogletree Farm Supply, 291 So. 2d 560 (Miss. 1974); Jackson Ready-Mix Concrete v. Meadows, 198 So. 2d 576 (Miss. 1967).

 Miller argues that Mr. Guthrie's present back problems are not the result of a new injury, but merely a recurrence of the condition following the original injury. The original injury was not a work-related injury, therefore, the recurrence of such injury should not be compensable. Potts v. Lowery, 242 Miss. 300, 134 So. 2d 474 (1961). See Strickland v. M.H. McMath Gin, Inc., 457 So.

 2d 925 (Miss. 1984). This Court ruled in Ingalls Shipbuilding Corp. v. Byrd, 215 Miss. 234, 60 So. 2d 645 (1952), that the existence of a pre-existing disease or infirmity of the employee does not disqualify a claim under the" arising out of employment "requirement of the statute, if the employment aggravated, accelerated or combined with the disease or infirmity to produce the disability for which compensation is sought. Furthermore, this Court held in Tate v. Dr. Pepper Bottling Company, 70 So. 2d 602 (Miss. 1954), that a pre-existing infirmity, even though it appeared to be congenital, was brought to light, aggravated and accelerated by the claimant's employment which ...


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