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Malam v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division

June 24, 2015

RONALD MALAM, Claimant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Employer-Respondent.

APPEAL FROM THE LABOR AND ESIDUSTRIAL RELATIONS COMMISSION

PER CURIAM.

On August 12, 2011, Ronald Malam ("Claimant"), a correctional officer employed by the Missouri Department of Corrections ("Employer"), was involved in an incident where he was "required to 'take down' an uncooperative inmate." Although Claimant felt nothing unusual at the time, other than "an adrenaline rush, " the incident started a chain of events that ultimately resulted in a significant amount of hospitalization and medical treatment for a "hypertensive crisis" suffered by Claimant. The Labor and Industrial Relations Commission ("the Commission") ultimately found the largest portion of that medical treatment to be non-compensable under section 287.020 of the workers' compensation law.[1]

Claimant raises two points on appeal. The first claims that the Commission erred in finding that Claimant failed to meet his burden of proving that his "accident was the prevailing factor under [section 287.020.3(1)] in causing [Claimant's] hypertensive crisis" because his medical expert's report "unambiguously" opined that it was. It further asserts that the Commission "only considered the medical opinions" and ignored evidence and its own findings regarding other circumstances surrounding the accident.

Claimant's second point asserts the Commission erred in finding that Claimant failed to prove that his work accident was the prevailing factor in causing his hypertensive crisis because "the Commission failed to first determine whether a compensable injury of any kind occurred, in that a compensable physical and emotional injury did result from the sudden and extreme stresses of the accident that in turn caused the need to treat the hypertensive crisis."

Finding no merit in either claim, we affirm the decision of the Commission.

Governing Law and Applicable Principles of Review

We review the findings of the Commission, not those of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). Clark v. FAG Bearings Corp., 134 S.W.3d 730, 734 (Mo. App. S.D. 2004). To determine whether Claimant suffered a compensable injury, the Commission was required to utilize the statutory scheme set forth in section 287.020. Armstrong v. Tetra Park, Inc., 391 S.W.3d 466, 472 (Mo. App. S.D. 2012). In pertinent part, that statute provides:

2. The word "accident" as used in this chapter shall mean an unexpected traumatic event or unusual strain identifiable by time and place of occurrence and producing at the time objective symptoms of an injury caused by a specific event during a single work shift. An injury is not compensable because work was a triggering or precipitating factor.
3. (1) In this chapter the term "injury" is hereby defined to be an injury which has arisen out of and in the course of employment. An injury by accident is compensable only if the accident was the prevailing factor in causing both the resulting medical condition and disability. "The prevailing factor" is defined to be the primary factor, in relation to any other factor, causing both the resulting medical condition and disability.
(2) An injury shall be deemed to arise out of and in the course of the employment only if:
(a) It is reasonably apparent, upon consideration of all the circumstances, that the accident is the prevailing factor in causing the injury; and
(b)It does not come from a hazard or risk unrelated to the employment to which workers would have been equally exposed outside of and unrelated to the employment in normal nonemployment life.

Section 287.020.2–3 (emphasis added).[2]

The determination of whether an accident is the "prevailing factor" causing a claimant's condition is an inherently factual one. Maness v. City of De Soto, 421 S.W.3d 532, 539 (Mo. App. E.D. 2014). Under our standard of review, we "must examine the whole record to determine if it contains sufficient competent and substantial evidence to support the award, i.e., whether the award is contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence." Hampton v. Big Boy Steel Erection, 121 S.W.3d 220, 222-23 (Mo. banc 2003).

We do not review issues involving the credibility of witnesses and the weight to be given to their testimony; instead, we defer to the Commission's determination of all such issues. Caldwell v. Delta Exp., Inc., 278 S.W.3d 251, 253 (Mo. App. S.D. 2009). The Commission, as the trier of fact, is free to believe all, part, or none of the evidence ...


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