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Fore v. Griffco of Wampee, Inc.

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

June 30, 2014

Patricia Fore, Employee, Appellant,
v.
Griffco of Wampee, Inc., Employer, and Chartis Claims, Inc., Carrier, Respondents

Heard: February 5, 2014.

Appeal From The Workers' Compensation Commission. Appellate Case No. 2012-212939.

Stephen Benjamin Samuels, of Samuels Law Firm, LLC, and Peter P. Leventis, IV, of McKay Cauthen Settana & Stubley, PA, both of Columbia, for Appellant.

Weston Adams, III, and James H. Lichty, both of Columbia, and Helen Faith Hiser, of Mt. Pleasant, all of McAngus Goudelock & Courie, LLC, for Respondents.

THOMAS, J. HUFF and PIEPER, JJ., concur. THOMAS, J.

OPINION

Page 38

[409 S.C. 362] THOMAS, J.

This is a workers' compensation case. The single commissioner awarded Patricia Fore compensation based on his finding that Fore's work-related injury resulted in a forty percent disability to the back. Fore appealed to the appellate panel, which affirmed the award. Fore now appeals to this court. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

[409 S.C. 363] FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In 2005, Fore began working as a meat cutter in a Griffin IGA in Myrtle Beach. Her responsibilities included unloading trucks, rotating and cleaning coolers, and carrying items weighing forty to eighty pounds.

On February 21, 2008, Fore was injured when she bumped into some machinery while carrying about sixty pounds of meat. After March 31, 2008, Fore ceased working at IGA and moved to Leesburg, Georgia, with her husband.

After a hearing on August 12, 2009, a single commissioner found Fore suffered compensable injuries to her back and right hip and her back injury affected her right leg. Fore's employer, Griffco of Wampee, Inc., and its carrier, Chartis Claims, Inc. (collectively Respondents), were ordered to assume responsibility for all causally related treatment and to pay Fore temporary total disability commencing on March 31, 2008, Fore's final day of employment at IGA.

On May 19, 2010, Fore underwent a lumbar fusion. The surgery was not successful, resulting in a non-union and failed back syndrome. In August 2010, Dr. Wolgin, Fore's treating physician, after consulting with Fore's case manager, referred Fore to therapy and allowed her to perform sedentary work with restrictions regarding weightlifting and movement.

Fore commenced part-time work as a clerk for ABC Bail Bonds (ABC). In September, Fore told Dr. Wolgin she was working only three hours per day and three days per week in an " office setting" ; however, she actually worked twenty or more hours per week for ABC. She also performed courier services for a towing service owned by Steve McGowan, the owner of ABC. McGowan paid Fore eight

Page 39

dollars per hour in cash for her work, and Fore never completed a time card in her own name.

By October 2010, Fore completed a month of physical therapy; however, her condition did not improve, and she reported increased pain in her hip and back from sleeping in a bed. As a result of these circumstances, Dr. Wolgin wrote a work slip in which he stated Fore was unable to work until further notice.

[409 S.C. 364] Fore left ABC on January 21, 2011, maintaining she could not perform her duties because of excessive pain from having to alternate between sitting and standing positions. McGowan, however, alleged Fore wanted to work more hours and even went to Atlanta to obtain her certification as a bail bond agent. According to McGowan, Fore increased her hours, eventually working thirty to thirty-five hours per week, and told him she was leaving ABC because she needed to earn more money to pay for her child's daycare.

Dr. Wolgin suggested additional surgery, but Fore declined this option for several reasons: her chance of improvement was only fifty percent, her prior surgery had been painful, and she was busy caring for a young child. After consulting both Fore and her attorney, Dr. Wolgin closed Fore's case on February 14, 2011, and declared she reached maximum medical improvement on that date. Dr. Wolgin also assigned Fore a thirty-six percent whole person impairment rating.

Sometime in February 2011, Fore was approached by Tony Owens, a longtime friend and the operator of A-1 Bail Bonding (A-1), one of ABC's competitors. Owens requested Fore's permission to use her name and license because she was well known in the community. Fore transferred her license to A-1 and completed one bond herself for A-1 to make the transfer effective. Fore also allowed Owens, at his expense, to place advertising for A-1 on the back window of her truck. The advertising included a telephone number for A-1 that could be called any time of the day.

In July 2011, Owens developed serious health problems and was unable to work. Fore claimed that because of Owens's difficulties, she agreed to complete a few bonds for A-1 without compensation until Owens could train someone else for the work. Fore was responsible for obtaining five bonds in July 2011, twelve bonds in August 2011, and one bond in September 2011. She maintained her only physical exertion in obtaining the bonds was to travel to the courthouse to sign for them. Eventually, ...


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