Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division
and Industrial Relations Commission 13-104480.
M. Dowd, Judge.
Lime Company ("Employer") appeals the decision of
the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (the
"Commission") awarding David Hogenmiller
workers' compensation benefits based on a finding that
Hogenmiller sustained a five-percent permanent partial
disability of the body as a whole as a direct result of
work-related tinnitus. Employer contends that the Commission
erred by finding that Hogenmiller's expert, Dr. David
Mason, an audiologist with a Ph.D. in hearing science, was
qualified to testify regarding the nature, extent, and cause
of Hogenmiller's tinnitus. Finding no error, we affirm.
and Procedural Background
owns and operates a manufacturing plant where Hogenmiller
worked for 41 years. Hogenmiller testified that he worked
around loud machinery for over 20 years at the plant and for
many years he was required to wear hearing protection due to
workplace noise. Hogenmiller, who had military experience,
testified that he would not have been able to hear an M14
rifle discharge over the sound of the machinery he worked
around. Also, he testified that the motorcycles he owned and
rode were quieter than the noise at the plant.
workers' compensation claim, Hogenmiller asserted that he
suffers from tinnitus as a result of his work for Employer.
The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") received
testimony from Hogenmiller's expert Dr. Mason and
Employer's expert Dr. Mikulec, a medical doctor with a
specialization in otolaryngology. Dr. Mason testified that
Hogenmiller suffered a five-percent permanent partial
disability of the body as a whole as a direct result of his
work-related tinnitus. Dr. Mikulec testified that Hogenmiller
suffered no disability related to his employment and that
Hogenmiller's tinnitus was caused by aging, not his
exposure to noise at the plant. Employer objected as to the
admissibility of Dr. Mason's testimony, claiming Dr.
Mason was unqualified to offer expert testimony on the
nature, extent, and cause of Hogenmiller's tinnitus.
overruled Employer's objections and found Dr. Mason's
testimony to be admissible and credible and awarded
Hogenmiller benefits representing five-percent of the body as
a whole. The Commission affirmed the ALJ's award. This
standard for reviewing decisions of the Commission in
workers' compensation cases is found in Article V, §
18 of the Missouri Constitution and §
287.495.1 . According to Article V, § 18, we
review whether the Commission's decision is
"authorized by law" and "whether it is
supported by competent and substantial evidence upon the
whole record." Johme v. St. John's Mercy
Healthcare, 366 S.W.3d 504, 509 (Mo.banc 2012) (citing
the constitutional provision). Section 287.495.1, for its
part, directs us to review only questions of law, and
provides that we may modify, reverse, remand for rehearing,
or set aside the Commission's award only upon the
following grounds: (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.
Johme, 366 S.W.3dat 509 (citing § 287.495.1).
absence of fraud, the Commission's findings of fact are
conclusive and binding. Greer v. SYSCO Food Servs.,
475 S.W.3d 655, 664 (Mo.banc 2015) (citing § 287.495.1).
We defer to the Commission's determinations with regard
to witness credibility and the weight accorded to conflicting
evidence. Id., But we review issues of law de
novo and accord no deference to the Commission's
interpretation of the law. Id.
that are clearly interpretations of law, rather than
determinations of fact, are reviewed by us for correctness
without deference to the Commission's judgment.
McGhee v. W.R. Grace & Co., 312 S.W.3d 447, 451
(Mo.App.S.D. 2010). We also treat as a legal issue subject to
de novo review fact findings reached through the
application of the law, rather than by natural reasoning
based on facts alone. Id.
sole point on appeal, Employer contends that the Commission
erred by allowing Dr. Mason to testify regarding the nature,
extent, and cause of Hogenmiller's tinnitus.
Specifically, Employer argues that because Dr. Mason did not
review any medical records, and because his opinion that
Hogenmiller suffered from work-related tinnitus was based
solely on Hogenmiller's subjective reports, Dr. Mason
lacked any superior knowledge regarding the relevant subject
matter that might assist the trier of fact and thus his
testimony was inadmissible under § 490.065. Employer
also claims that Dr. Mason's report was inadmissible
because it was not based on reliable data as required by
Applicable principles of Missouri law regarding ...