Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division
FROM THE LABOR AND INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS COMMISSION
W. SHEFFIELD, P.J.
appeal involves a workers' compensation claim filed by
Rhonda Clark ("Claimant") against Dairy Farmers of
America, Inc. ("Employer"). The Labor and
Industrial Relations Commission ("the Commission")
awarded compensation, and Employer appeals. Employer contends
that the Commission erroneously applied the term
"accident" as it appears under sections
287.020 and 287.120 of The Workers'
Compensation Law in determining Claimant suffered a
compensable injury by accident. Within the same point on
appeal, Employer additionally asserts that the Commission
erred under section 287.495.1 because the facts found do not
support the award. We disagree with the arguments Employer
raises and affirm the award of the Commission.
and Procedural Background
began work in cheese production for Employer in May 2011. The
next month, she suffered a fractured rib while performing her
work duties. Claimant's job involved "turning down
the ends" of a cheese mixture in large metal vats. Each
vat "is like a huge table" with a mixer in the top.
While the mixture cured, Claimant had to keep it from turning
"hard, like a block of cheese, " at the edges of
the vats. That required using a shovel to bring in "the
ends so that the mixer part could get all parts of the
cheese." Claimant did that job eight hours a day, five
days a week.
shoveling the cheese mixture during a normal workday,
Claimant felt a painful pop in the right side of her ribcage
and stopped working because she was unable to lift her arm.
The following day, Claimant visited the emergency room and
diagnostic testing revealed not only a fractured rib but also
a lytic lesion on the bone "pretty close" to
the spot where the fracture occurred. Further tests revealed
that the lesion was Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis
("LCH"), a rare malignancy which can weaken a bone
"to the point that it can fail under a force that is
less than normal." Claimant subsequently underwent
radiation therapy, improved, and is no longer undergoing
reported her injury to the Division of Workers'
Compensation. In the hearing, the administrative law judge
("ALJ") reviewed evidence regarding medical
causation of the fracture. Claimant's doctor, Dr.
Mullins, expressed the opinion that the force of
Claimant's work was the prevailing cause of the fracture.
He opined that "the type of work she did, utilizing a
shovel, . . . [was] sufficient enough to cause a rib
denied compensation. Claimant appealed, and after review, the
Commission reversed the ALJ's decision. The Commission
concluded that Claimant "suffered a compensable injury
by accident" and concluded Employer was responsible for
past medical expenses and permanent partial disability
the Commission held that Claimant satisfied each of the
statutory criteria for an accident as set forth under Chapter
287, that the accident was the prevailing factor causing
Claimant's injury, and that the injury arose out of and
in the course of Claimant's employment. In determining
whether Claimant suffered an accident for purposes of the
statute, the Commission found the testimony of Dr. Mullins to
be most persuasive. This appeal followed.
reviewing a workers' compensation final award, 'we
review the findings and award of the Commission rather than
those of the ALJ.'" Pruett v. Federal Mogul
Corp., 365 S.W.3d 296, 303 (Mo. App. S.D. 2012) (quoting
Birdsong v. Waste Mgmt., 147 S.W.3d 132, 137 (Mo.
App. S.D. 2004)). This Court reviews decisions by the
Commission to ensure they are "supported by competent
and substantial evidence." Mo. Const. art. V, § 18
quoted in White v. ConAgra Packaged Foods, LLC, No.
SC 96041, 2017 WL 6460352, at *2 (Mo. banc Dec. 19, 2017).
Under section 287.495.1, the Commission's decision will
only be disturbed if: (1) the Commission acted without or in
excess of its powers; (2) the award was procured by fraud;
(3) the facts found by the Commission do not support the
award; or (4) there was not sufficient competent evidence in
the record to warrant the making of the award.
White, 2017 WL 6460352, at *2.
defer to the Commission on issues involving the credibility
of witnesses and the weight to be given to their
testimony." Pruett, 365 S.W.3d at 304 (quoting
Pavia v. Smitty's Supermkt., 118 S.W.3d 228, 234
(Mo. App. S.D. 2003)). In contrast, "[d]ecisions
involving statutory interpretation . . . are reviewed de
novo." White, 2017 WL 6460352, at *2. The
determination of whether an incident was a compensable
accident under the Workers' Compensation Law is a