APPEAL & ERROR: Appellate Review. WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: Causation.
Windell Caldwell sued West Fraser, Inc., seeking workers’ compensation benefits for a back injury. At a hearing on that claim, Caldwell testi- fied that he was working on December 17, 2009, and he was assigned the task of replacing “knives” in a mulching machine.
In order to complete the task, Caldwell had to lift two boxes weighing 50-100 pounds and move a screen weighing 80 pounds. Caldwell claimed that he felt three “pinches” in his back as he attempted to complete the task. Caldwell contacted his wife, Rhonda, and she took him to an urgent care facility. The records from that visit contain a notation indicating that “no injury” was reported. On December 19, 2009, Caldwell went to the emergency room because of his back pain.
Caldwell and Rhonda testified that they told the medical staff that Caldwell’s back pain was the result of a work-related injury. The medical records indicate that Caldwell “denie[d] injury.” Caldwell went back to the urgent care facility on December 21, 2009. The medical records from that date referenced an “injury [on] 12/17.” On December 22, 2009, Caldwell informed West Fraser, via a facsimile transmission from his counsel, that he had injured his back at work on December 17, 2009. Dr. David Scott, an orthopaedic surgeon who treated Caldwell, testified that his injuries were consistent with the lifting accident that Caldwell had described but that the injury could also have occurred in a number of ways.
Caldwell’s supervisor testified that when Caldwell left work on December 17, 2009, he said that he was experiencing back pain but that he did not say that the injury was work related. His coworker testified that he was working near Caldwell on the date of the alleged injury and that he did not hear Caldwell say that he was injured. Caldwell had complained of back pain in the past. The trial court held that Caldwell had suffered a compensable injury and awarded him benefits accordingly.
West Fraser appealed and the Court of Civil Appeals reversed, holding that although Caldwell presented “some” evidence indicating that he injured his back at work, “that evidence does not amount to substantial evidence.” West Fraser, Inc. v. Caldwell, [Ms. 2100696, January 13, 2012] ___ So.3d ___ (Ala. 2012)[21 ALW 4-3].
The Supreme Court granted certiorari review. Reversed. The decision of the Court of Civil Appeals conflicts with the decision in Ex parte McInish, 47 So.3d 767 (Ala. 2008)[17 ALW 37-9], which states that an appellate court cannot reweigh the evidence presented at trial. In this case, the Court of Civil Appeals relied upon cases that are factually distinguishable from the case at bar. “We conclude from our review of the totality of the evidence, which admittedly reveals some inconsistencies in the evidence, that the trial court’s determination that Caldwell’s injury is compensable is supported by substantial evidence.” The judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals is due to be reversed.
Ex parte Caldwell (West Fraser, Inc. v. Caldwell), 21 ALW 30-1 (1110513), 7/20/12, Lee Cty., Stuart; Malone, Woodall, Bolin, Parker, Shaw, Main, and Wise concur; Murdock concurs in the result, 17 pages. [ATTY: Pet: Tracy Cary, Dothan; Resp: James Sanders, Vestavia]