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Andrews v. State

Supreme Court of Idaho

May 26, 2017

STEVEN ANDREWS, Claimant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IDAHO, INDUSTRIAL SPECIAL INDEMNITY FUND, Defendant-Respondent.

         2017 Opinion No. 51

         Appeal from the Industrial Commission of the State of Idaho.

         The order of the Industrial Commission is affirmed.

          Cooper & Larsen, Chartered, Pocatello, for appellant. Reed Larsen argued.

          Benoit, Alexander, Harwood, High & Mollerup, PLLC, Twin Falls, for respondent. Bren Mollerup argued.

          HORTON, Justice.

         This is an appeal from the Industrial Commission. Steven Andrews filed for workers' compensation benefits after he fell from a ladder in 2009 while working for the Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS Church). Andrews sought to establish that the Idaho Industrial Special Indemnity Fund (ISIF) was liable pursuant to Idaho Code section 72-332. Following a hearing and consideration of post-hearing depositions, the referee issued his Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation on May 10, 2016. The referee concluded that Andrews failed to show that ISIF was liable because the evidence showed that any pre-existing physical impairments did not constitute a subjective hindrance and that Andrews failed to show that his pre-existing impairments combined with the industrial accident to cause his total and permanent disability. In an order of the same date as the referee's recommendation, the Commission adopted the recommendation. Andrews timely appealed, arguing that the Commission's order was not supported by substantial and competent evidence. We affirm.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Andrews was injured when he fell from a ladder in March 2009. Andrews was 53 years old and employed by the LDS Church as a mechanic at the time of the accident. Andrews had been employed by the LDS Church since 1988. Andrews was responsible for maintaining between 32 and 42 buildings for the LDS Church. Andrews graduated from Marsh Valley High School in 1977 and held a variety of jobs before being hired by the LDS Church.

         The accident that led to Andrews filing this claim occurred on March 17, 2009. Andrews fell from a 12-foot upper mezzanine and landed on his shoulders on a stage. This accident required Andrews to have surgery on his lower back. Following the surgery, the LDS Church terminated Andrews' employment because they could no longer employ him due to his restrictions and physical disabilities. After losing his job, Andrews unsuccessfully attempted to find another job. Andrews had problems with his feet, knees, lower back, shoulders, and neck before the 2009 accident.

         Andrews filed his workers' compensation claim in November 2010. In November 2011, Andrews reached a settlement agreement with the LDS Church. Andrews then proceeded with this claim against ISIF. In 2015, a hearing was held before the referee. On May 10, 2016, following post-hearing depositions, the referee filed his Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation. The referee found that Andrews had failed to show that his pre-existing injuries were a subjective hindrance to his employment and that he failed to show that but for the pre-existing injuries he would not have been totally and permanently disabled. Based on those findings, the referee recommended that the Commission hold that ISIF was not liable for Andrews' total and permanent disability. The Commission issued an order the same day adopting the referee's Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation. Andrews timely appealed.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "When this Court reviews a decision from the Industrial Commission, we exercise free review over questions of law, but review questions of fact only to determine whether the Commission's findings are supported by substantial and competent evidence." Uhl v. Ballard Med. Products, Inc., 138 Idaho 653, 657, 67 P.3d 1265, 1269 (2003). This Court is "constitutionally compelled to defer to the Industrial Commission's findings of fact where supported by substantial and competent evidence." Fife v. Home Depot, Inc., 151 Idaho 509, 513, 260 P.3d 1180, 1184 (2011). "Substantial and competent evidence is relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept to support a conclusion." Mazzone v. Texas Roadhouse, Inc., 154 Idaho 750, 755, 302 P.3d 718, 723 (2013). "This Court will not disturb the Commission's determination as to the weight and credibility of evidence unless clearly erroneous." Id. "In reviewing the Commission's decision, we must view the facts and all inferences from them most favorably to the party who prevailed before the Commission." Dumaw v. J.L. Norton Logging, 118 Idaho 150, 155, 795 P.2d 312, 317 (1990).

         III. ...


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