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WORKERS' COMPENSATION MEDICAL & TEMPORARY-TOTAL-DISABILITY BENEFITS - KENNAMER BROTHERS, INC. V. STEWART

Kennamer Brothers, Inc. v. Stewart, [Ms. 2150359, Sept. 9, 2016] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2016). Kennamer Brothers, the employer, appeals from the judgment of the Marshall Circuit Court finding Stewart, the employee, eligible for temporary-total-disability benefits and medical benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act following injuries received in a trucking accident. The standard of review is set forth in Ex parte Saad's Healthcare Services, Inc., 19 So. 3d 862 (Ala. 2008):

"'An appellate court reviews the burden of proof applied at trial and other legal issues in workers' compensation claims without a presumption of correctness.' However, '[i]n reviewing pure findings of fact, the finding of the circuit court shall not be reversed if that finding is supported by substantial evidence.' 'The trial court's findings of fact "'on disputed evidence in a workers' compensation case are conclusive.'"'"

Ms. *4, quoting Ex parte Saad's, 19 So. 3d at 870-71. In accident cases involving sudden and traumatic events, "an employee must produce substantial evidence tending to show that the alleged accident occurred and must also establish medical causation by showing that the accident caused or was a contributing cause of the injury." Ms. *4, quoting Pair v. Jack's Family Rests., Inc., 765 So. 2d 678, 681 (Ala. Civ. App. 2000). "Whether the employment caused an injury is a question of fact to be resolved by the trial court." Ms. *4-5, quoting Tenax Mfg. Alabama, LLC v. Holt, 979 So. 2d 105, 112 (Ala. Civ. App. 2007). Here, upon review of the trial evidence, including the employer's failure to point to any other traumatic event since the crash that could have caused the employee's symptoms, the court holds that it cannot conclude that the trial court's determination of medical causation is not supported by substantial evidence.

Next, the employer contended temporary-total-disability benefits were not due because the employee was "prevented from working for reasons unrelated to his or her workplace injury." Ms. *11, quoting Fab Ark Steel Supply, Inc. v. Dodd, 168 So. 3d 1244, 1259 (Ala. Civ. App. 2015). Specifically, the employer asserted the employee's employment was terminated because he represented an unacceptable insurance risk following the crash. The Court rejected this contention finding the trial court could probably have determined that the reason for terminating the employee's employment was not unrelated to the injury he sustained, i.e., that but for the crash, it could be inferred he would not have been deemed such an impossibly high insurance risk. Id.

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