NC Risk Handling Hint - Necessary Findings of Facts Supporting an Opinion and Award and Credibility

The issue of credibility is squarely within the domain of the Industrial Commission and their findings rooted in the issue of credibility will rarely be disturbed on appeal.

 

Corey McAdams worked for Safety Kleen as a vacuum customer service representative. On March 22, 2007, he was injured under compensable circumstances as a result of a motor vehicle accident. He received ongoing medical treatment from multiple physicians, some of whom concluded that McAdams had a variety of injuries and was unable to return to work. Other physicians who treated McAdams concluded that he had not sustained any serious injuries, and that there was nothing preventing him from returning to work. In addition, McAdams provided conflicting accounts of the circumstances under which he was injured. He initially stated that he was making a left turn and the driver of another vehicle struck the rear of his car as he was turning. Contrary to this account, McAdams later indicated that his vehicle was actually stopped on the side of the road and that as he started to exit his car, the driver of the other vehicle involved rear-ended his car, throwing him around and causing him to lose consciousness. Shortly after the accident, McAdams also completed an accident report in which he checked the box indicating that he had not been injured in the accident.

 

After a hearing and appeal to the Full Commission, the Full Commission entered an Opinion and Award granting indemnity and medical benefits. The Full Commission did not make any Findings of Fact as to what injuries McAdams actually sustained in the accident and did not reconcile the different versions of the accident which were provided by McAdams. Defendants appealed to the Court of Appeals.

 

In January 2012, the Court of Appeals remanded the case to the Full Commission to make specific Findings of Fact with respect to the crucial facts upon which the question of an employee’s right to compensation depends. The Court noted that the findings must be sufficiently specific to enable a Court on appeal to determine whether they are supported by the evidence and the law appropriately applied. According to the Court, it was unclear which version of McAdams’ accident the Commission found credible, and the Findings of Fact that were made tended to indicate that McAdams had made many representations and exaggerations regarding the accident and his medical condition. Notwithstanding these inconsistencies, the Full Commission never made a determination of McAdams’ credibility. The Full Commission also failed to determine whether the doctors who had concluded that McAdams required medical care based their opinions on an entirely inaccurate description of the accident. Judge Bryant dissented, however, noting that, notwithstandingthe different versions of the accident which McAdams conveyed, defendants admitted compensability of the accident on a Form 60 and that the Court should be careful not to extend its authority to areas solely reserved for the Commission – credibility of evidence. Judge Bryant also indicated that the Findings of Fact were supported by the evidence despite the existence of contradictory evidence.

 

On October 5, 2012, inMcAdams v. Safety Kleen Sytems, Inc., the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals for the reasons in Judge Bryant’s dissent.