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Lawskills.com Georgia Caselaw
GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION v. ALLEN.
37738.
Workmen's compensation. DeKalb Superior Court. Before Judge Hubert. March 30, 1959.
GARDNER, Presiding Judge.
Under the facts of this case, the judge of the superior court correctly affirmed the award of the full board.
This workmen's compensation case came before the hearing director on a request by the claimant for a hearing based on change of condition. At the hearing before the deputy director it was established that Morris Allen, an employee of General Motors Corporation, a self-insurer, suffered a back injury on February 19, 1957, returned to work on March 26, 1957, and worked until May 19, 1958. From the time of injury until the return to work the employer provided its own doctor and an orthopedic surgeon. Evidence is conflicting as to whether the employee requested further treatment between March, 1957, and May, 1958, but his testimony as well as letters written by him to the board and an officer of the employer sustained his contention that he requested but did not receive further attention. On May 19, after consultations with his family doctors, he went to Dr. E. B. Dunlap, informed the employer the same day, and was hospitalized and placed in traction the following day. As of the time of the hearing, the employee was unable to work, and the employer's physician testified to his physical disability although he was of the opinion that the claimant might have suffered a subsequent injury.
The hearing director entered an award finding the claimant totally disabled, but, as to medical expenses, stated: "I find from the evidence the employer furnished a competent orthopedic doctor for claimant, and the fact he was not satisfied with the diagnosis is not grounds for authorizing a change in physician. There is no evidence as to what Dr. Dunlap treated claimant for, since he did not testify.
"The only diagnosis of claimant's injury was that of Dr. Lovell, who said he had a 'sprain of the lumbo-sacral joint'. And, when Dr. Lovell examined claimant on June 7, 1958, he stated he did not believe the condition he found could not be the result of the 1957 back injury, but 'it is certainly possible.'
"I find, therefore, the bill of Dr. E. B. Dunlap, the hospital bill incidental thereto, and the drug bills which are not identified, shall not be considered as authorized medical."
The claimant appealed to the full board insofar as the disallowance of these medical bills adversely affected him. The board adopted the findings of fact of the hearing director as its findings of fact with the exception of the italicized sentence last above quoted, which it deleted, substituting in lieu thereof the following: "The full board finds as a matter of fact that the employer, General Motors Corporation, BOP, is liable for all medical expenses incurred by the claimant as a result of his accidental injury of February 7, 1957, including the bill of Dr. E. B. Dunlap, the hospital bill incidental thereto, and the drug bills which are not identified, within the limits of the act."
On appeal by the employer this award was affirmed by the judge of the Superior Court of DeKalb County, and that judgment is assigned as error.
1. Counsel for the plaintiff in error in their brief confine themselves to two contentions, both relating to the reversal by the full board of the hearing director's disallowance of medical expenses. It is first contended, on the authority of Ideal Mutual Ins. Co. v. Ray, 92 Ga. App. 273 (88 S. E. 2d 428) that, while the full board decides the case de novo, and while on conflicting evidence it may arrive at a finding of fact contrary to that of the hearing director, both of which findings are supported by some evidence, and while it may also adopt the findings of fact of the hearing director, it can not reverse the hearing director for the stated reason that there is no evidence to support a given finding, when as a matter of fact under disputed evidence the fact might have been found in either way, even though the full board might have thus reversed the hearing director for the stated reason that the preponderance of evidence was contrary to that found by the hearing director. We do not find the award of the full board in this case subject to this objection. The board did not find that there was "no evidence" to support the disallowance of medical payments; its award contains only the statement that "there is ample evidence to support the findings of the single deputy director, with the exception of" the material which was deleted as above set out. The hearing director seems to have disallowed the medical payments to Dr. Dunlap, together with the hospital and drug bills incidental thereto, for two reasons; she felt the evidence preponderated to a conclusion that the claimant had received adequate medical treatment provided by the employers, and she further stated: "I find further that although claimant contends he was treated and advised by family doctors and incurred medical bills for treatment and drugs, there is no evidence from these doctors as to what treatment was rendered, or that the services performed would constitute authorized medical as contemplated by the act. I find further that the claimant without consulting the employer, went to Dr. E. B. Dunlap for treatment . . . his testimony was not offered, and we do not have the benefit of his findings or opinion." (Emphasis added). This suggests that the hearing director was also of the opinion that, in the absence of direct testimony on the part of the physicians, there was no testimony which would connect these expenses with the claimant's original injury. It would be better practice to have the testimony of such physicians, but, from the testimony of the claimant himself, together with other testimony such as that of the company doctor concerning the claimant's physical condition shortly after his release from the hospital, where he was put in traction, there was some evidence to sustain the award of the full board, both on the issue that claimant was unable to obtain continued treatment from the company physicians, and on the issue that the treatment given by doctors of his own choice related to the original injury. It was accordingly proper for the full board to reverse on this issue. See American Mut. Liability Ins. Co. v. Williams, 75 Ga. App. 129 (42 S. E. 2d 578); U. S. Fidelity &c. Co. v. O'Byrne, 61 Ga. App. 806 (7 S. E. 2d 689).
v. Sisson, 198 Ga. 623, 625 (32 S. E. 2d 295); Peninsular Life Ins. Co. v. Brand, 57 Ga. App. 526 (196 S. E. 264). The findings of fact here affirmatively show that both doctors supplied by the employer "couldn't find anything wrong" with the claimant after the initial treatment, that he was sent to a psychiatrist to see if the trouble was psychic, and that the reply was negative. It is further shown that the claimant at the time of hearing suffered muscle spasm in the low back with accompanying pain and diminished sensation along the outer side of the left thigh and leg; and that Dr. Dunlap after examination sent him to the hospital where he spent 19 days in traction. The award shows the claimant to be presently suffering from total disability. It would serve no good purpose to reverse this case and remand it to the full board for the mere purpose of "strengthening" the findings of fact (which might easily be done from the evidence in the case) when there is still therein a sufficient basis for the award as made.
Accordingly, the judge of the superior court did not err in affirming the award of the full board.
Judgment affirmed. Townsend and Carlisle, JJ., concur.
Clarence J. Jackson, contra.
Spalding, Sibley, Troutman, Meadow & Smith, Richard A. Denny, Jr., for plaintiff in error.
DECIDED SEPTEMBER 9, 1959.
Saturday May 23 00:41 EDT


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