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David Gray was working as a truck driver for UPS when he suffered a fatal heart attack. The claim was denied and, after a hearing, the Deputy Commissioner found the death compensable. The Full Commission affirmed. InGray v. UPS, 713 S.E.2d 126 (2011), the Court of Appeals affirmed in part and remanded the case to the Full Commission to enter findings on whether Defendants had successfully rebutted thePickrell presumption. Decedent’s widow filed a Petition for Discretionary Review and Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the North Carolina Supreme Court, both of which were denied. The Full Commission then entered an Opinion and Award denying the Mrs. Gray’s claim for death benefits and she appealed.
On March 19, 2013, in Gray v. United Parcel Service, Inc.,the Court first considered whether the Full Commission erred in concluding that decedent’s death was not compensable. In rejecting this argument, the Court found that the decedent’s autopsy listed the cause of death as coronary atherosclerosis, and Defendants’ expert witness opined that decedent’s fall from his work truck did not cause or contribute to his heart attack. The Court also noted that no evidence was presented that a fall was an accepted cause of a heart attack and as such, the evidence supported the Commission’s finding and conclusion that Mrs. Gray failed to carry her burden of proof to show that her husband’s death was the result of an accident arising out of the course and scope of his employment.
The Court also addressed the issue of whether the Full Commission applied the correct medical causation standard in concluding that Mrs. Gray’s medical expert’s testimony was speculative. The Court recounted that Mrs. Gray’s medical expert admitted that he did not have a medical explanation for Decedent’s fall and the Commission, therefore, reasonably concluded that her expert testimony was speculative and properly relied on medical evidence presented by Defendants.
Risk Handling Hint:
While the Court initially remanded the Gray case back to the Full Commission to consider whether Defendants had successfully rebutted thePickrell presumption, their subsequent holding inGray is yet another reminder that the Full Commission can weigh evidence and make credibility determinations that will not be disturbed on appeal so long as there is some evidence to support the Commission’s findings and conclusions.