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Smith v. Rossville Valley Manor/Corporate Resource Management

March 30, 2007

WAUNITA SMITH, APPELLEE/CLAIMANT,
v.
ROSSVILLE VALLEY MANOR/CORPORATE RESOURCE MANAGEMENT, INC., APPELLANT/RESPONDENT, AND LEGION INSURANCE COMPANY/ THE KANSAS GUARANTEE INSURANCE ASSOCIATION, APPELLANT/INSURANCE CARRIER, AND LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, APPELLEE/INSURANCE CARRIER, AND KANSAS WORKERS COMPENSATION FUND, APPELLEE.



Appeal from Workers Compensation Board.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. Appellate review of an agency decision regarding workers compensation is limited to questions of law.

2. To the extent the insurer seeks to establish the scope of the last injurious exposure rule, the issue on appeal involves a question of law over which this court possesses unlimited review. To the extent the insurer challenges the applicability of the rule to the circumstances of this case, the issue involves a question of fact.

3. Appellate review of questions of fact in a workers compensation case is limited to whether the Workers Compensation Board's findings are supported by substantial competent evidence.

4. The "last injurious exposure" rule in successive-injury cases places full liability upon the carrier covering the risk at the time of the most recent injury that bears a causal relation to the disability. When an employee sustains a subsequent industrial injury which is found to be a "new" injury, the insurance carrier at the time of the second injury is liable for all of the claimant's benefits.

5. Under the last injurious exposure rule, a successive injury is relevant only to the extent it affects an employee's work disability rating. In other words, if a primary injury establishes an employee's work disability and a subsequent injury does not increase the work disability, the ultimate disability is not causally related to the latter injury, and the insurance carrier at the time of the primary injury is responsible for compensation.

6. Whether successive injuries are merely the direct natural consequences of a primary injury or whether such injuries constitute independent and distinct injuries contributing to a work disability is a question of fact.

7. When reviewing a factual finding in a workers compensation case, this court is limited to determining whether the findings are supported by substantial competent evidence.

8. Substantial competent evidence in the workers compensation context is evidence possessing substance and relevant consequence and providing a basis from which the legal issues may reasonably be resolved.

9. An appellate court views any disputed evidence in a light most favorable to the prevailing party, including reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, and does not weigh the evidence or assess the credibility of witnesses.

10. Under the facts of this case, applying the "last injurious exposure rule," we find that where substantial competent evidence supports the Board's conclusion that claimant's final work-related injury caused only a temporary aggravation of the claimant's condition and did not affect her permanent work disability, the insurance carrier at the time of the primary work-related injury was responsible for payment of the claimant's award.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Caplinger, J.

Affirmed.

Before CAPLINGER, P.J., HILL and BUSER, JJ.

Respondent Rossville Valley Manor/Corporate Resource Management, Inc. (Manor) and Legion Insurance Company/Kansas Guarantee Insurance Association (Legion) appeal the Workers Compensation Board's (Board) order charging Legion with payment of claimant Waunita Smith's workers compensation award. Legion argues Liberty Mutual Insurance Company ...


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