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141858 - Findley v DaimlerChrysler

Torme C. Findley
 
Daryl C. Royal
 
Plaintiff-Appellee,
 
v
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
 
 
(Workers’ Comp Appellate Comm)
 
DaimlerChrysler Corporation,
 
Gerald M. Marcinkoski
 
Defendant-Appellant.
 

Summary

​Torme Findley was employed by DaimlerChrysler Corporation as an assembly line worker. On February 18, 2004, Findley fell from a motorized cart driven by her supervisor. Findley claims that, as a result of this work-related accident, she suffers from shoulder and back pain, a closed head injury, memory problems, depression and anxiety. After the accident, Findley was off work for about two months, returning to work in April 2004. She worked until August 2004, but said that she had problems doing her assigned jobs. She was then off work until August 2005 because there was no work available. When Findley returned to the job in 2005, she tripped over a cord and fell, and after that did not return to work. When DaimlerChrysler sent Findley a letter telling her to report for work, she did not respond; DaimlerChrysler terminated her employment in September 2005.

In October 2005, Findley filed a claim for worker’s compensation benefits. A magistrate conducted a three-day trial, where Findley and her daughter testified that, since the accident, Findley has been incapacitated both physically and mentally. Medical experts also testified. The magistrate identified inconsistencies in Findley’s statements to the various medical experts, and found that Findley was not credible – for example, while Findley claimed that her memory had been seriously impaired, she said she was certain that she had never received her employer’s letter directing her to return to work. Because Findley’s medical experts relied on her discredited descriptions of the accident and symptoms, the magistrate rejected their testimony, instead relying on DaimlerChrysler’s experts. The magistrate concluded that Findley did not suffer a work-related injury, and that Findley unreasonably refused an offer of reasonable employment.

Findley appealed the magistrate’s decision to the Workers’ Compensation Appellate Commission claiming that the magistrate’s conclusions were not supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence on the whole record. While her appeal was pending, Findley moved for remand of the case to the magistrate for additional proofs, claiming that a statement that the magistrate made in her opinion – that Findley used a walker during trial – was not correct. The WCAC denied the motion, with one commissioner dissenting. The WCAC then issued an opinion and order affirming the magistrate’s ruling. The controlling opinion was authored by one commissioner, who found no reason to alter the magistrate’s findings, noting that the magistrate performed the necessary fact-finding functions with detail and clarity. The commissioner deferred to the magistrate’s assessment of Findley’s credibility and the rejection of Findley’s experts, which flowed from the credibility determination. A second commissioner concurred in the result only. The third commissioner dissented, noting that he would remand the case to the magistrate for an explanation of the alleged factual discrepancy while retaining jurisdiction.Findley appealed to the Court of Appeals, now arguing that the WCAC had not rendered a valid opinion because only one commissioner signed the opinion and the concurring commissioner gave no reasons for affirming the magistrate. She also claimed that the denial of her motion to remand was an abuse of discretion. In a published per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case to the WCAC for a true majority opinion and further analysis. The Court of Appeals held that the WCAC had not abused its discretion in denying Findley’s motion to remand, but noted that if the WCAC deems it necessary on remand, it could remand the case to the magistrate. DaimlerChrysler appeals