February 8, 2017
From The Workers' Compensation Commission
Scott Masel, of Newby Sartip Masel & Casper, LLC, of
Myrtle Beach, for Appellant.
Veatch Noonan, of Willson Jones Carter & Baxley, P.A., of
Mount Pleasant, and John Gabriel Coggiola, of Willson Jones
Carter & Baxley, P.A., of Columbia, both for Respondents.
a workers' compensation case arising from injuries Jenna
Foran suffered while stocking cigarettes at a convenience
store. Foran appeals the South Carolina Workers'
Compensation Commission's denial of compensation, arguing
the Commission erred in finding her injury was an idiopathic
fall not compensable as an "injury by accident arising
out of and in the course of [her] employment." S.C. Code
Ann. § 42-1-160(A) (2015). We reverse and remand.
began working as a cashier for Murphy Oil in December 2013.
She alleges that on April 29, 2014, she stood up after
kneeling down to stock cigarettes and misstepped on the edge
of a floor mat behind the cash register. Foran claims her
left ankle rolled on the uneven surface, causing her to
suffer torn ligaments and requiring surgery.
hearing before the single commissioner, Respondents argued
Foran suffered an idiopathic injury due to a pre-existing
instability of her left ankle. Foran admitted she had surgery
on her left ankle in 2004 but claimed that after the surgery, her
left ankle healed and she had no physical limitations. She
testified that following her surgery, she worked as a cashier
and lifeguard and also played volleyball and softball. Foran
denied complaining about left ankle pain prior to her injury
and recalled describing the injury to her supervisor, who
stated she would need to inform the store manager, Randolph
Stokes Rogers. Rogers testified that before her injury, Foran
walked with a noticeable limp and complained multiple times
about having a "bad ankle." However, he admitted no
physical limitations precluded Foran from performing any of
her job duties. Rogers claimed he did not hear about a mat
causing Foran's injury until a few weeks before trial and
said Foran told him "she was stocking cigarettes and
when she went to get up her ankle kind of gave way."
records from the day of Foran's injury documented that it
occurred "when she stood up and may have caught on a mat
twisting her left ankle-since then it is painful to bear
weight on it." Dr. John Daly, at Doctors Care, noted
Foran's x-rays indicated "[t]here may have been
prior internal fixation, [but] no acute fracture [was]
evident." After the Murphy Oil injury, Foran required
work restrictions "due to an acute injury."
notes of Dr. Ross Taylor at Coastal Orthopedics reflect Foran
"admit[ted] to having complete loss of sensation distal
to the mid cap area since her previous surgery" and
"this [was] not related to her most recent injury."
Dr. Taylor concluded Foran's "left ankle [was]
grossly unstable and the previous repair ruptured at the time
of her most recent injury in all likelihood." Dr.
Taylor's report further indicated Foran's pain
"began when she was at work after slipping and
falling." After reviewing the store surveillance video
from the time of her injury and inspecting the mat, the
single commissioner determined Foran's injury was
idiopathic and not caused or aggravated by her work or any
special risk posed by her employment. The single commissioner
concluded the video showed Foran standing at the register
with both feet forward when her left ankle rolled and noted
(1) Foran's description of the accident differed from
what the video depicted; (2) Rogers testified Foran never
told him the mat caused her fall and he only learned this two
weeks before the hearing date; (3) Rogers testified Foran
walked with a "significant and noticeable limp on the
left side prior to April 29, 2014"; and (4) a medical
report indicated Foran reported her left ankle pain began
after she slipped and fell but did not describe slipping on a
Appellate Panel affirmed the single commissioner's order
based on Foran's chronic left ankle instability, the
surveillance video, Foran's testimony, and Rogers's
compensation [statutes are] to be liberally construed in
favor of coverage in order to serve the beneficent purpose of
the [Workers' Compensation] Act; only exceptions and
restrictions on coverage are to be strictly construed."
James v. Anne's Inc., 390 S.C. 188, 198, 701
S.E.2d 730, 735 (2010). "An appellate court can reverse
or modify the [Appellate Panel]'s decision if it is
affected by an error of law or is clearly erroneous in view
of the reliable, probative, and substantial evidence in the
whole record." Pierre v. Seaside Farms, Inc.,
386 S.C. 534, 540, 689 S.E.2d 615, 618 (2010).
"Substantial evidence is 'not a mere scintilla of
evidence nor the evidence viewed blindly from one side of the
case, but is evidence which, considering the record as a
whole, would allow reasonable minds to reach the conclusion
that [the commission] reached or must have reached' to