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Gleason v. Treasurer of the State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, First Division

March 3, 2015

EDWARD GLEASON, SR., Appellant,
v.
TREASURER OF THE STATE OF MISSOURI - CUSTODIAN OF THE SECOND INJURY FUND, Respondent

Appeal from the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission.

Edward Gleason, Sr., Appellant, Pro se.

Kimberley Cox Fournier, Kansas City, MO, for respondent.

Before Division One: Cynthia L. Martin, Presiding Judge, Thomas H. Newton, Judge and Mark D. Pfeiffer, Judge. All concur.

OPINION

Cynthia L. Martin, Judge

Page 495

Edward Gleason, Sr. (" Gleason" ), who appears pro se, appeals from the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission's (" Commission" ) decision denying his claim for permanent disability benefits from the Second Injury Fund following Gleason's 20- to 25-foot fall from the top of a railcar he was inspecting. The Commission concluded that Gleason's inability to explain why he fell was " fatal to [his] claim," negating, as a matter of law, his ability to prove that his injuries did not come from a hazard or risk unrelated to his employment and as to which he was

Page 496

equally exposed in normal nonemployment life. Because the Commission erroneously declared and applied the law, we reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Factual and Procedural History

Ceva Logistics employed Gleason as a transportation coordinator. Ceva Logistics works with Ford Motor Company to deliver new vehicles throughout the United States and Mexico. Gleason worked in a supervisory position over a crew of five to seven employees. He testified:

We would load [the vehicles] on trains and secure them down . . . . [I]t could be five railroad cars or ten railroad cars of trains which would generally be 75, 80 or 100 some new cars . . . . [T]hen I would go up [onto the railcars] and inspect and make sure everything was right and then we would ship it off.

Gleason was employed in that capacity from February 2007 to November 2007.

On August 5, 2007, Gleason was walking atop one of the railcars conducting an inspection when he fell approximately 20 to 25 feet to the ground. Gleason sustained injuries to his head, neck, right shoulder, clavicle, and ribs. Gleason has no memory of the circumstances leading up to the fall, the fall itself, or the three days after the fall when he was hospitalized. Accordingly, Gleason cannot explain why he fell. No one testified to having seen the fall.

Gleason filed a claim for workers' compensation against Ceva Logistics. Gleason also asserted that he was entitled to permanent total disability benefits from the Second Injury Fund.

Ceva Logistics and Gleason entered into a compromise settlement that was approved by an Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ). The Stipulation for Compromise Settlement stated that Gleason and Ceva Logistics agreed that " [Gleason], while in the employment of [Ceva Logistics], sustained an accidental injury/occupational disease arising out of and in the course of [Gleason's] employment and that an accidental injury/occupational disease resulted in injury to [Gleason]." Ceva Logistics agreed to pay Gleason a lump sum of $34,000 in exchange for a release based on a determination that Gleason sustained a permanent disability of 15 percent at the 232 week level on the right side, as well as 13 percent body as a whole referable to the cervical region.[1] Gleason's claim against the Second Injury Fund remained pending.

An ALJ held a hearing on Gleason's claim against the Second Injury Fund. Gleason and the Second Injury Fund entered into various stipulations prior to the hearing leaving three issues to be determined: (1) " whether [Gleason] sustained an accident arising out of and in the course and scope of his employment" ; (2) " whether [Gleason] suffered any disability either permanent partial or permanent total" ; and (3) " whether the Second Injury Fund is liable to [Gleason] for any disability compensation."

After considering the evidence presented at the hearing, the ALJ issued its written decision denying Gleason's claim for benefits from the Second Injury Fund. The ALJ concluded that Gleason did not meet his burden of proving that he suffered a work injury on August 5, 2007, in that there was no evidence presented regarding the cause of Gleason's fall. The ALJ also concluded that ...


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