NC Supreme Court Sides With NCAJ In Workers’ Comp Case

July 12, 2023

Sprouse v. Turner Trucking Company

Opinion FiledJune 16, 2023
Attorney for the CaseScott W. Roberts
Amicus Brief WritersMichael Bertics Jay A. Gervasi Jr.
CourtNC Supreme Court
Docket No.51A22

Plaintiff and her husband were both alleged injury injured in an accident while working for Defendant employer. Plaintiff promptly gave notice of the accident itself and of her husband’s injury, but not of her own injury. The issues in the case involved whether Plaintiff had a reasonable excuse for failing to provide notice, whether Defendant was prejudiced thereby, whether Plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the incident in question, and whether she was temporarily totally disabled for a certain timeframe as a result. The Industrial Commission found in Plaintiff’s favor, but a divided panel of the Court of Appeals reversed. The dissent contended that the majority applied an improper standard of review and reweighed the evidence rather than giving proper deference to the Industrial Commission.

NCAJ filed an amicus brief arguing that the Court of Appeals’ decision ignored the standards set forth in both the statute and the applicable case law, which firmly establish that the Industrial Commission is the sole judge of the credibility of the witnesses, and that the proper inquiry on appeal is whether the Commission’s findings are supported by competent evidence. To the contrary, the brief argues, the Court of Appeals applied de novo review. 

The Supreme Court unanimously agreed with NCAJ’s amicus brief and reversed the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court’s opinion holds that the Industrial Commission is the proper finder of fact in worker’s compensation matters, and that its decisions are to be accorded significant deference. Because there was competent evidence to support the Commission’s findings of fact, and because these findings supported its conclusions of law, its decision should not be disturbed.