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Hadley v. Beco Concrete Products, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division

November 10, 2016

DENNIS L. HADLEY (DECEASED) by NANNETTE HADLEY, Claimant-Respondent,
v.
BECO CONCRETE PRODUCTS, INC., Employer-Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM THE LABOR AND INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS COMMISSION. AFFIRMED

          OPINION

          Nancy Steffen Rahmeyer, J.

         BECO Concrete Products, Inc. ("Employer") appeals an award of death benefits to Nannette Hadley ("Claimant") by the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (the "Commission"). Nannette was the sole dependent of Dennis L. Hadley ("Decedent"), who was a long-time, commercial truck driver for Employer. Decedent was killed in an accident at approximately 8:40 a.m. on July 25, 2012 when the passenger-side tires of the truck and attached flatbed trailer Decedent was driving left the right side of the highway on a sweeping curve to the left and the truck and trailer then crossed the highway and came to rest on the opposite side. The Commission calculated Claimant's death benefit pursuant to sections 287.240(2) and 287.250.4, and rejected Employer's claim that the death benefit should be reduced under section 287.120.5, RSMo Cum.Supp. 2005, because Decedent's death was caused by Decedent's "failure to obey [a] reasonable rule adopted by [Employer] for the safety of employees."[1] In two points, Employer contends that the Commission "erred as a matter of law" in calculating Claimant's death benefit and in rejecting Employer's claim that the death benefit should be reduced under section 287.120.5. We deny Employer's points, and affirm the Commission's award.

         Standard of Review

         We review the final decision and findings of the Commission and, to the extent adopted or incorporated by the Commission in its decision, the findings and conclusions of the administrative law judge. Sell v. Ozarks Medical Center, 333 S.W.3d 498, 505 (Mo.App. S.D. 2011).

         Under article V, section 18 of the Missouri Constitution, judicial review of an administrative body's final decision and findings "shall include the determination whether the same are authorized by law, and in cases in which a hearing is required by law, whether the same are supported by competent and substantial evidence upon the whole record." Section 287.495.1 further grants the appellate court "jurisdiction" to review "all decisions of the commission, " authorizes an appeal to the appellate court from "[t]he final award of the commission, " and provides that the appellate court shall review only questions of law and may modify, reverse, remand for rehearing, or set aside the award only on the following grounds:

(1)That the commission acted without or in excess of its powers;
(2)That the award was procured by fraud;
(3)That the facts found by the commission do not support the award;
(4) That there was not sufficient competent evidence in the record to warrant the making of the award.

         The constitutional standard of "competent and substantial evidence upon the whole record" is in "harmony" with the statutory standard of "sufficient competent evidence in the record, " and neither standard requires a reviewing court to view the evidence and inferences from the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commission's decision. Hampton v. Big Boy Steel Erection, 121 S.W.3d 220, 222, 222-23 (Mo. banc 2003). As a result, in applying these standards, an appellate court's review is limited to "a single determination whether, considering the whole record, there is sufficient competent and substantial evidence to support the award. This standard would not be met in the rare case when the award is contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence." Id. at 223; Harrah v. Tour St. Louis, 415 S.W.3d 779, 780 (Mo.App. E.D. 2013).

         We review questions of law de novo, and defer to the Commission on issues of fact and issues "concerning the credibility and weight to be given to conflicting evidence." Allcorn v. Tap Enterprises, Inc., 277 S.W.3d 823, 827 (Mo.App. S.D. 2009). Further, except for expert testimony on matters that are outside the knowledge and understanding of lay persons and the Commission, "the Commission may decide a case 'upon its disbelief of uncontradicted and unimpeached testimony.'" Angus v. Second Injury Fund, 328 S.W.3d 294, 300, 299-303 (Mo.App. W.D. 2010).

         To successfully challenge the Commission's factual findings, the complaining party must:

(1) marshal all record evidence favorable to the award; (2) marshal all unfavorable evidence, subject to the Commission's explicit or implicit credibility determinations; and (3) show in the context of the whole record how the unfavorable evidence so overwhelms the favorable evidence and its reasonable inferences that the award is, in context, not supported by competent and substantial evidence. See Jordan v. USF Holland Motor Freight, Inc., 383 S.W.3d 93, 95 (Mo.App. S.D. 2012).

Brune v. Johnson Controls, 457 S.W.3d 372, 377 (Mo.App. E.D. 2015).

         Following amendment of Missouri's workers' compensation law in 2005, the provisions of the law shall be construed ...


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