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Arrowpoint Capital Corp. v. South Carolina Second Injury Fund

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

May 31, 2017

Arrowpoint Capital Corporation/Arrowood Indemnity Co., Carrier, Appellant,
v.
South Carolina Second Injury Fund, Respondent. In Re: Joe Mathis, Employee/Claimant,
v.
Yuasa Exide, Incorporated, Employer Appellate Case No. 2014-002212

         THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE. IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 268(d)(2), SCACR.

          Heard January 25, 2017

         Appeal From Sumter County W. Jeffrey Young, Circuit Court Judge

          Vernon F. Dunbar and Ashley R. Forbes, both of McAngus Goudelock & Courie, LLC, of Greenville, for Appellant.

          Latonya Dilligard Edwards, of Dilligard Edwards, LLC, of Columbia, for Respondent.

          PER CURIAM

         Arrowpoint Capital Corporation (Carrier) appeals the circuit court's order affirming the Workers' Compensation Commission's (the Commission's) denial of Carrier's claim for reimbursement from the Second Injury Fund (the Fund).[1] Carrier argues the circuit court erred in denying its claim for reimbursement because Carrier met all elements for Fund reimbursement pursuant to section 42-9-400 of the South Carolina Code (2015). We reverse.

         The circuit court committed an error of law in interpreting section 42-9-400(a) to preclude reimbursement. See Thompson v. S.C. Steel Erectors, 369 S.C. 606, 612, 632 S.E.2d 874, 878 (Ct. App. 2006) ("The appellate court may reverse or modify the Commission's decision only if the claimant's substantial rights have been prejudiced because the decision is affected by an error of law or is clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative, and substantial evidence on the whole record."); Springs Indus., Inc. v. S.C. Second Injury Fund, 296 S.C. 359, 364, 372 S.E.2d 915, 918 (Ct. App. 1988) (holding "the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the substantial evidence in the record is that Springs Industries is entitled to reimbursement from the Second Injury Fund").

         Section 42-9-400(a) provides,

If an employee who has a permanent physical impairment from any cause or origin incurs a subsequent disability from injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment, resulting in compensation and medical payments liability or either, for disability that is substantially greater and is caused by aggravation of the preexisting impairment than that which would have resulted from the subsequent injury alone, the employer or his insurance carrier shall pay all awards of compensation and medical benefits provided by this title; but such employer or his insurance carrier shall be reimbursed from the Second Injury Fund . . . .

         In reversing, we are bound by our supreme court's holding in State Workers' Compensation Fund v. S.C. Second Injury Fund, 313 S.C. 536, 539-40, 443 S.E.2d 546, 548 (1994) (determining a firefighter's "total disability from heart disease in 1986 qualifie[d] as a subsequent disability arising out of his employment" and reversing this court's denial of reimbursement). There, the State Workers' Compensation Fund successfully pursued Second Injury Fund reimbursement when a Forestry Commission firefighter diagnosed with coronary artery disease in 1974 was subsequently rendered totally disabled due to arteriosclerosis and cardiac disease. Id. at 537, 443 S.E.2d at 547. In effect, the supreme court concluded the firefighter's occupational cardiac disease, as aggravated by the hazards of his work, constituted both a preexisting condition and subsequent injury. See id. at 539, 443 S.E.2d at 548 (holding separate work-related injuries are not required for reimbursement, and "a 'prior disability' need not result from an industrial accident").

         Joe Mathis's (Claimant's) case is analogous. Section 42-9-400(a) provides for reimbursement if an "employee who has a permanent physical impairment from any cause or origin incurs a subsequent disability from injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment." Here, Claimant suffered documented heavy metal exposure dating back to the 1980s, and this continued exposure ultimately led to his disablement. Notably, both parties acknowledged during oral arguments that Claimant's cognitive issues were attributable to his lead exposure at his workplace. Thus, the circuit court's interpretation of section 42-9-400(a) to preclude reimbursement conflicts with our supreme court's analysis in State Workers' Compensation Fund.

         Additionally, Carrier satisfies the remaining reimbursement factors that

1. An employee must have a permanent physical impairment from ...

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