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Crittenden v. Kellogg Brown & Root, LLC

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

January 31, 2017

JAMES CRITTENDEN APPELLANT
v.
KELLOGG BROWN & ROOT, LLC AND INDEMNITY INSURANCE COMPANY OF NORTH AMERICA APPELLEES

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/30/2016

         TRIBUNAL FROM WHICH MISSISSIPPI WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION APPEALED:

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES: PATRICK R. BUCHANAN

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: JAMES KENNETH WETZEL GARNER JAMES WETZEL

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., BARNES AND FAIR, JJ.

          FAIR, J.

         ¶1. James Crittenden sought workers' compensation benefits from Kellogg Brown & Root LLC (KBR), claiming he suffered severe back pain from either being struck with a heavy object falling from a forklift, or from picking it up and putting it back on the lift. KBR admitted that there was a minor hip injury, essentially a bruise, but it denied that the incident was responsible for the severe disability Crittenden claimed. The administrative judge found the ailments compensable. KBR successfully appealed to the full Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission, which vacated the AJ's decision and found that Crittenden's back condition was not work related and, therefore, not compensable.

         ¶2. Crittenden appeals. Because our standard of review requires this Court to defer to the factual findings of the Commission, we affirm.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶3. "[R]eview of a decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission is limited to determining whether the decision was supported by substantial evidence, was arbitrary and capricious, was beyond the scope or power of the agency to make, or violated one's constitutional or statutory rights." Cook v. Home Depot, 81 So.3d 1041, 1044 (¶3) (Miss. 2012) (citation omitted). "Because the Commission is the ultimate fact-finder and judge of the credibility of the witnesses, [an appellate court] may not reweigh the evidence before the Commission." Id. at 1044-45 (¶3) (citation omitted). Questions of law, on the other hand, are reviewed de novo. Ladner v. Zachry Constr., 130 So.3d 1085, 1088 (¶9) (Miss. 2014).

         DISCUSSION

         ¶4. Crittenden alleged that he sustained a work-related injury to his back and hip on October 3, 2013, while working as a pipefitter for KBR. Crittenden and a coworker were gathering supports for pipe fitting systems, which weighed seventy to eighty pounds. While picking up the supports with a forklift, one slipped and struck Crittenden in the right hip. Crittenden then lifted the support and put it back on the forklift. He testified that he did not initially suspect a serious injury, but when he woke up the next day, he could barely walk because of the pain. Crittenden was subsequently diagnosed with spinal stenosis and, though it was disputed, a herniated disc. Different doctors at different times came to different conclusions about the extent of resulting disability, though Dr. David Bomboy, the employer's medical examiner, concluded that Crittenden could not work because of the pain (though he concluded it was not caused by the on-the-job injury).

         ¶5. Both Crittenden and KBR stipulated to the incident and a hip contusion. Otherwise, they agreed to disagree on the nature of his back problems and presented to the Commission the single issue of causation of his back injury, specifically "whether the claimant suffered a work related injury to his back on October 3, 2013."

         ¶6. After a hearing, where Crittenden testified, and both sides presented medical ...


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