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Fonseca v. Corral Agriculture, Inc.

Supreme Court of Idaho

March 19, 2014

MARCO ANTONIO FONSECA, Claimant-Appellant,
v.
CORRAL AGRICULTURE, INC., Employer, and IDAHO STATE INSURANCE FUND, Surety, Defendants-Respondents

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2014 Opinion No. 33

Appeal from the Industrial Commission of the State of Idaho.

The Commission's denial of Fonseca's workers' compensation claim is affirmed.

Hammond Law Office, P.A., Caldwell, for appellant. Richard L. Hammond argued.

Idaho State Insurance Fund, Boise, for respondents. David J. Lee argued.

HORTON, Justice. Chief Justice BURDICK and Justices EISMANN, J. JONES and W. JONES CONCUR.

OPINION

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[156 Idaho 146] HORTON, Justice.

This is an appeal from a decision of the Industrial Commission (Commission). The Commission denied Marco Fonseca workers' compensation benefits after concluding he failed to prove he suffered an accident in September 2010. We affirm.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In September 2010, Corral Agriculture, Inc. (Corral) contracted with Williamson Orchards to provide laborers to pick apples. Corral was a corporation owned by Roberto Corral, Sr. (Roberto Sr.) with around 500 employees. The corporation has since been dissolved. Roberto Corral, Jr. (Roberto Jr.) was a supervisor for Corral and supervised Jorge Coronado, a work crew leader, while Corral was working with Williamson Orchards. Williamson Orchards is a fruit growing operation owned by brothers Roger Williamson and John Williamson. Roger Williamson is the president, overseeing office management, and John Williamson is the vice-president and in charge of all field operations, including the orchards.

In September 2010, Fonseca worked as a laborer for Corral as a member of Coronado's crew at Williamson Orchards. Fonseca's workers' compensation complaint stems from an injury he claims to have suffered while working on or about September 10, 2010. Fonseca states that he was picking apples near the tip of a ten or fifteen foot ladder when the ladder broke, causing him to fall to the ground and resulting in an injury to his hip and back. On September 24 and October 10, 2010, Fonseca went to the Terry Reilly clinic. Fonseca was seen by Dr. Partridge on both occasions and on both occasions presented with stomach problems. Fonseca testified that he reported his fall and his hip and back pain to Dr. Partridge on both visits but the medical records contain no notes regarding the fall or complaints of hip or back pain.

On December 15, 2010, the same day Fonseca signed his compensation claim, Fonseca presented to the West Valley Medical Center emergency room with complaints of hip and back pain. Fonseca was examined by Dr. Wasielewski. Dr. Wasielewski reported Fonseca had a limping gait, but found that Fonseca had normal range of motion and no motor or sensory deficits. Dr. Wasielewski concluded that Fonseca had suffered a hip injury.

The hearing on Fonseca's claim was conducted on January 10 and March 2, 2012. Fonseca speaks Spanish and an interpreter was present both days of the hearing. The referee heard testimony from Fonseca, Sarai Fonseca (Fonseca's adult daughter), Ana Fonseca (Fonseca's wife), Roger Williamson, John Williamson, Coronado, and Roberto Jr. At the hearing, Fonseca sought to introduce Spanish-language medical records relating to medical visits following his injury. The referee initially indicated that the records would be admitted and that the interpreter could translate the records. However, the referee later determined that the evidence was not admissible because it was not intelligible to all the parties. The referee concluded that any Spanish-language documentary evidence which Fonseca sought to introduce needed to be translated at Fonseca's expense prior to being admitted.

On October 23, 2012, the referee issued his Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Recommendation. The referee found that Fonseca's accounts of his accident were not consistent, and after observing Fonseca at the hearings and comparing the " numerous" " irreconcilable inconsistencies" between his testimony and the other evidence in the record, the referee characterized Fonseca's credibility as " suspect." The referee noted that while Fonseca's account of the accident was supported by the testimony of his wife and daughter, who confirmed they saw him in pain on September 10, 2010, his wife and daughter were not able to support Fonseca's account of the accident. The referee also found that the signed statements of three Corral employees, Marquez, Aguilar, and Diaz, offered by Fonseca to corroborate his description of the accident, were not helpful

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[156 Idaho 147] as they did not describe the accident or identify Fonseca ...


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