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LAWSON v. HANOVER JUVENILE CORRECTIONAL CENTER, et al.


NOTICE: The opinions posted here are
subject to formal revision. If you find a typographical error or
other formal error, please notify the Virginia Court of Appeals.


LAWSON

v.

HANOVER JUVENILE
CORRECTIONAL CENTER, et al.


COURT OF APPEALS OF VIRGINIA

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

Record No. 0911-01-2

Present: Judges Annunziata, Agee and Senior
Judge Coleman

RONALD LAWSON

v.

HANOVER JUVENILE CORRECTIONAL CENTER/

COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

FROM THE VIRGINIA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION
COMMISSION

(Timothy J. Healy, on brief), for appellant.

(Randolph A. Beales, Acting Attorney General;
Gregory E. Lucyk, Senior Assistant Attorney

General; Catherine Crooks Hill, Assistant
Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.


MEMORANDUM OPINION[1] PER CURIAM

Ronald Lawson (claimant) contends that the
Workers’ Compensation Commission erred in finding that he failed
to prove that he sustained an injury by accident arising out of
and in the course of his employment on July 21, 1999. Upon
reviewing the record and the briefs of the parties, we conclude
that this appeal is without merit. Accordingly, we summarily
affirm the commission’s decision. See Rule 5A:27.

On appeal, we view the evidence in the light
most favorable to the prevailing party below. See R.G.
Moore Bldg. Corp. v. Mullins
, 10 Va. App. 211, 212, 390
S.E.2d 788, 788 (1990). "In order to carry [the] burden of
proving an ‘injury by accident,’ a claimant must prove that the cause
of [the] injury was an identifiable incident or sudden
precipitating event
and that it resulted in an obvious
sudden mechanical or structural change in
the body."
Morris v. Morris, 238 Va. 578, 589, 385 S.E.2d 858, 865
(1989) (citations omitted). Unless we can say as a matter of law
that claimant’s evidence sustained his burden of proof, the
commission’s findings are binding and conclusive upon us. See
Tomko v. Michael’s Plastering Co., 210 Va. 697, 699, 173
S.E.2d 833, 835 (1970).

The commission ruled that claimant did not
prove that he was injured as a result of a specific incident at
work on July 21, 1999. In so ruling, the commission summarized
claimant’s testimony as follows:

[C]laimant candidly testified
at the hearing that he was unaware of stepping on
any nail, screw, or other construction debris
during his workday on July 21, 1999. The claimant
testified that he dressed for work at home,
walked down two flights of stairs and across a
parking lot to his car, and then drove directly
to work. After completing his eight-hour shift,
the claimant drove back to his home, walked
across the parking lot and up two flights of
stairs before entering his apartment. The
claimant did not notice the blood in his left
sock until after he arrived home and removed his
shoes, and later observed a small hole in the
sole of his left shoe. The claimant himself
initially thought that the blood was from "a
break in the skin from walking so much that
day," and only later speculated that he
"possibly" stepped on a nail or some
other sharp object in the area around Unit 15. In
this regard, we note that the claimant’s admitted
loss of feeling in his left foot, resulting from
his bilateral foot neuropathy, made it impossible
for even the claimant to know precisely when or
where he suffered the puncture wound.

Based upon these factual findings, which are
supported by claimant’s testimony, the commission was entitled to
conclude that "the mere speculative possibility that the
puncture wound occurred while the claimant was working on July
21, 1999, does not carry his burden of proving by a preponderance
of the evidence that he experienced a compensable injury by
accident." In addition, as fact finder, the commission was
entitled to give little probative weight to Dr. John W. Snoddy’s
opinions because they were based upon the speculative possibility
that claimant injured his foot while working on July 21, 1999.

In light of the lack of any evidence, beyond
conjecture, that claimant’s injury was caused by his stepping on
a sharp object at work, we cannot find as a matter of law that
claimant’s evidence sustained his burden of proving that his
injury was caused by a specific identifiable incident or sudden
precipitating event occurring at work on July 21, 1999.

For these reasons, we affirm the commission’s
decision.

Affirmed.

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Pursuant to Code
Sect. 17.1-413, this opinion is not designated for
publication.

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