Ernest Waters Const. Co.v.Mills

Supreme Court of Florida, Division AMar 9, 1951
51 So. 2d 180 (Fla. 1951)

March 9, 1951.

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Palm Beach County, Joseph S. White, J.

McCarthy, Lane Howell, Jacksonville, for appellants.

Carlton Brown, Jacksonville, and Rodney Durrance, Tallahassee, for appellees.


Appellee, Byron E. Mills worked as a lineman for Ernest Waters Construction Company eleven days in September 1947, and was stricken with a skin disease diagnosed as eczema, dermatitis or neuro dermatitis induced by exposure to damp weeds and stagnant water. He recovered sufficiently to take employment with Miller Electric Company of Jacksonville for five weeks, during which time he performed the same kind of work, was exposed to the same environment and was stricken with the same malady.

He claimed workmen's compensation from his first, but made no claim against his second, employer. Under a stipulation agreement approved by the Deputy Commissioner dated July 12, 1948, he was paid $22 per week for twenty weeks plus medical expenses to be governed by doctors opinions. His payments were discontinued August 31, 1948, account of being pronounced cured by the attending physician. Three or four weeks later, he secured the same type of employment with Southeastern Utility Service Company of Miami and suffered a return of his former trouble. About one year later, August 26, 1949, the Compromise award was reopened and a second award was made by the Deputy Commissioner to the claimant against his first employer. On appeal the full commission and the Circuit Court affirmed. This appeal is from the order of the Circuit Court affirming the order of the Industrial Commission.

As heretofore pointed out, the claimant Mills, was attacked by dermatitis while working for his first employer. He was pronounced cured and took employment with a second employer when he was again attacked by dermatitis. He claimed compensation from the first employer which was paid under the compromise agreement. He was again pronounced cured and took employment with two subsequent employers at different times. Under this state of facts, the point for determination is whether or not Mills is entitled to full temporary total disability payments of indefinite duration from his first employer for time lost when working for the subsequent employers.

It is not disputed that the claimant worked for his first employer eleven days, that he recovered sufficiently to secure the same kind of work with the second employer for five weeks, that he then claimed compensation which resulted in the compromise agreement for twenty weeks compensation plus an indefinite amount in the future to run "in accordance with the medical opinions herein." The medical opinions were to the effect that he was cured as of August 31, 1948, when payments were discontinued.

One year later, August 26, 1949, the case was reopened. The claimant had then been working with his third employer three weeks when he had a recurrence of dermatitis from the same cause. At this point the matter was submitted to the Deputy Commissioner and the issue tried by him was whether or not the claimant's disability had been cured or was a continuation of the first attack for which payments were made on stipulation.

An examination of the evidence discloses that the disease was an allergy resulting from contact with damp weeds or stagnant water and that each time he sought and secured new employment he was medically cured and continued so as long as he did not go out and subject himself to the causes which activated it. It was in other words an allergy that occurred each time he exposed his extremities to damp weeds or dead water. We find no ground to conclude that the subsequent recurrences of his trouble were attributable to or had any connection with the first. They could have been avoided if he had followed doctors advice.

In this state of the record, we find no causal relationship between the claimant's original attack in September 1947 and his later attacks, the last of which occurred in January 1950. The burden was on the claimant to show that his total incapacity between September 1947 and his subsequent incapacities resulted from the first attack and not from some independent intervening cause. Panagotopulos' Case, 276 Mass. 600, 177 N.E. 800; Gathard v. Campbell Foundry Co., 320 Mich. 180, 30 N.W.2d 827; Boswell v. Kearns Garden Chapel Funeral Home, 227 Iowa 344, 288 N.W. 402. The rule seems well settled that the doctrine of causal relationship is applicable to Workmen's Compensation cases. General Properties Co., Inc., et al. v. Greening, 154 Fla. 814, 18 So.2d 908; Cone Bros. Contracting Co. v. Allbrook, 153 Fla. 829, 16 So.2d 61.

From what has been said we cannot say that claimant's subsequent disability was compensable by appellants within the contemplation of the Workmen's Compensation Act, F.S.A. § 440.01. The evidence shows without contradiction that he was admonished to steer shy of damp weeds, dead water and creasote, that his dermatitis was activated each time by neglect on his part to obey his doctors instructions. He was bound to know the probable effect of his disobedience. Subsequent infections were such voluntary acts as to break the line of causation between his original and his subsequent attacks. Workmen's Compensation is not contemplated for injuries voluntarily inflicted.

The judgment appealed from is therefore reversed.

Reversed.

SEBRING, C.J., and THOMAS and HOBSON, JJ., concur.