In a new workers’ compensation decision, the South Carolina Supreme Court actually excluded from the substantial evidence standard speculative testimony that benefited the employer, not the employee.
In review of workers’ compensation cases, the standard for reviewing decisions of the workers’ compensation commissioners is whether there is substantial evidence in support.
In this case, Hutson v. SC State Ports Authority, the only issue on appeal was whether a specific bit of testimony was speculative, and thus unable to support a ruling for wage loss.
Facts: Hutson, the employee, had been a crane operator for the port authority. He was injured while trying to remove a container from a ship, presumably manually rather than with the crane. The injury was to his lower back and legs. After shrugging the injury off as a pulled muscle, his doctor diagnosed him with a disc bulge at L2-3 and spondylosis at L5-S1. His treatment included steroid injections, physical therapy, and use of a back brace.
The problem: In testimony, Hutson mentioned that he dreamt of starting a restaurant with the workers’ compensation money he was expecting to get. This is a problem because although Hutson had never owned or worked in a restaurant and had worked as a crane operator most recently, operating a restaurant requires standing up which would defeat wage loss if substantiated.
Obviously, this is quite speculative, but the single commissioner, the workers’ compensation commission panel, and the court of appeals accepted it as substantial evidence to defeat claim of wage loss. The Supreme Court rejected the testimony as unsupported by fact and only by the injured employee’s overly hopeful testimony. It preferred use of the facts that he lost a great deal of the use of his back and the facts that he no restaurant experience and had lost the ability to work in his lucrative crane operator gig.
If you or someone you know has been injured or killed in an accident on the job, you need a serious workers’ compensation law firm. Contact our workers’ compensation attorneys at 877-374-5999. We’ll give you the help you need to get the recovery you deserve.