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All opinions are subject to modification and technical correction prior to official publication in the North Carolina Reports and North Carolina Court of Appeals Reports. In the event of discrepancies between the electronic version of an opinion and the print version appearing in the North Carolina Reports and North Carolina Court of Appeals Reports, the latest print version is to be considered authoritative.
JEANETTE L. BASS, Employee, Plaintiff, v. MORGANITE, INC.,
Employer, SELF-INSURED (GALLAGHER BASSET SERVICES, Servicing
Filed: 19 October 2004
1. Workers' Compensation--occupational disease--carpal tunnel syndrome
The Industrial Commission did not err in a workers' compensation case by finding that
plaintiff employee failed to prove that she contracted an occupational disease of carpal tunnel
syndrome in connection with her job duties with defendant company, because: (1) plaintiff failed
to satisfy her burden, but instead merely argued that no competent evidence existed to support a
finding that plaintiff contracted carpal tunnel syndrome any other way besides her employment
with defendant; (2) the unchallenged findings show that both of plaintiff's treating physicians
admitted her symptoms started with a sliding door injury at her son's house in April 2000; and
(3) the Commission was not required to give the testimony of plaintiff's expert witnesses more
weight than that of another doctor who was an expert in hand and wrist disorders.
2. Appeal and Error--preservation of issues--failure to cite authority
Although plaintiff contends the Industrial Commission erred in a workers' compensation
case by finding that a videotape was an accurate depiction of the primary duties of plaintiff's
employment, this assignment of error is deemed abandoned because plaintiff failed to cite any
authority in support of her argument.
3. Workers' Compensation--doctor testimony-_weight of testimony
The Industrial Commission did not err in a workers' compensation case by according
more weight to the opinion of a doctor who was an expert in hand and wrist disorders than the
opinions of plaintiff's treating physicians, because: (1) competent evidence supported the
Commission's findings of fact and its decision to give greater weight to the testimony of the one
doctor; and (2) plaintiff's argument that her honesty and credibility require the Commission to
accept her testimony regarding her job duties as true is irrelevant to whether the Commission can
afford more weight to one testifying physician over another.
4. Appeal and Error--preservation of issues--failure to cite authority--broad assertion
Although plaintiff contends the Industrial Commission erred in a workers' compensation
case by failing to find that plaintiff's bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome was compensable, this
assignment of error is deemed abandoned under N.C. R. App. P. 28(b)(6) because plaintiff's
brief fails to present any authority in support of this broad assertion.
Appeal by plaintiff from opinion and award entered 29
September 2003 by Commissioner Bernadine S. Ballance. Heard in the
Court of Appeals 23 September 2004.
Brent Adams & Associates, by Kristine Anisansel, forplaintiff-appellant.
Brooks, Stevens & Pope, P.A., by Joy H. Brewer, for defendant-
Jeanette Bass (plaintiff) appeals from an Opinion and Award
entered by the Full Commission of the North Carolina Industrial
Commission (the Commission). The Commission found plaintiff
failed to prove she contracted an occupational disease in
connection with her job duties with Morganite, Inc. (defendant).
The findings of the Commission show plaintiff was employed by
defendant as a carbon brush inspector for nine years beginning 23
March 1992. As a brush inspector, plaintiff was required to
perform tests on carbon brush samples using various machines in the
lab. Plaintiff testified she was responsible for cutting and
grinding the parts and measuring them for density, hardness, and
resistance. She testified her job required constant use of her
hands and that she gripped the parts as she manipulated them.
Plaintiff was required to lift up to fifteen pounds approximately
twenty times a day. Plaintiff lifted up to one pound continuously
throughout the day. She also lifted between fifty and seventy-five
pounds between three and six times per week.
On 10 April 2000, plaintiff reported an injury to the plant
nurse and complained she experienced pain in her right hand.
Plaintiff stated the pain began on Saturday while she wasattempting to open a sliding glass door at her son's house.
Plaintiff was referred to neurologist Dr. Pamela Whitney (Dr.
Whitney). Dr. Whitney performed a nerve conduction study, which
showed plaintiff suffered from mild carpal tunnel syndrome. Based
solely upon plaintiff's description of her job duties, Dr. Whitney
opined that it seems reasonable that plaintiff's carpal tunnel
syndrome was caused by her job.
On 27 July 2000, Dr. Robert L. Allen (Dr. Allen), a
neurosurgeon, performed a carpal tunnel release on plaintiff's
right hand. Plaintiff returned to work in October 2000 with
restrictions to not perform heavy lifting.
Plaintiff again left work in January 2001 and was provided
medical leave and received one-half her salary for six months. On
15 January 2001, plaintiff sought treatment from Dr. Richard Alioto
(Dr. Alioto), an orthopedic surgeon, who examined both of
plaintiff's wrists and diagnosed her with tendinitis. Dr. Alioto
testified by deposition that plaintiff described the sliding door
injury of April 2000 as the beginning of her carpal tunnel
symptoms. In his opinion, this injury to her right wrist was where
she developed what sounded to me like symptoms of carpal tunnel
syndrome . . . .
Dr. Alioto provided a splint to plaintiff for her right wrist,
limited her to lifting no more than five pounds. He also
restricted her from performing repetitive type tasks. In March
2001, Dr. Alioto performed a Phalen's test on plaintiff's wrists,
which showed normal results. Nerve conduction studies onplaintiff's left wrist revealed mild carpal tunnel syndrome. On 27
April 2001, he performed carpal tunnel release surgery on
plaintiff's left wrist. Based upon plaintiff's description of her
job duties, Dr. Alioto opined that plaintiff's employment could
have been a contributing factor of carpal tunnel syndrome and that
plaintiff's employment placed her at a greater risk of developing
carpal tunnel syndrome over the general public not so employed.
Wanda Dorman (Dorman) worked with plaintiff and testified
that she agreed with plaintiff's job duty description. However,
Dorman testified that she did not hyper-extend or hyper-flex her
wrist while performing the inspections and that holding the parts
did not require much grip pressure. Teresa Sanders (Sanders),
another co-employee of plaintiff, testified that she had been
employed with defendant as an inspector for five to six years.
Sanders stated the tests performed by the inspectors are usually
completed within approximately one hour. She also testified there
are a variety of other activities that inspectors perform in
addition to testing the parts.
On 9 January 2002, Dr. George S. Edwards (Dr. Edwards), an
expert in hand and wrist disorders, examined plaintiff's hands and
diagnosed her with bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. He observed
a video tape depicting an employee who demonstrated plaintiff's job
duties in a similar, but slower, fashion. After viewing this
video, Dr. Edwards opined that there was no causal relationship
between plaintiff's job duties and her bilateral carpal tunnel
syndrome. Based on these findings, the Commission denied compensation
benefits and concluded plaintiff failed to prove by the greater
weight of the evidence that she contracted the occupational disease
of carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of her employment. Plaintiff
The issues on appeal are whether the Commission erred by: (1)
concluding plaintiff failed to prove she suffers from an
occupational disease due to causes and conditions characteristic of
and peculiar to her employment as a brush inspector with defendant;
(2) finding the videotape accurately depicted the primary duties of
plaintiff's employment; (3) according more weight to the opinion of
Dr. Edwards as opposed to plaintiff's treating physicians Dr.
Alioto and Dr. Whitney; and (4) failing to find that plaintiff's
bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome is compensable.
III. Standard of Review
On appeal from the Commission in a workers' compensation
claim, our standard of review requires us to consider:
whether there is any competent evidence in the
record to support the Commission's findings of
fact and whether these findings support the
Commission's conclusions of law. The findings
of fact made by the Commission are conclusive
upon appeal when supported by competent
evidence, even when there is evidence to
support a finding to the contrary. In
weighing the evidence the Commission is the
sole judge of the credibility of the witnesses
and the weight to be given to their testimony
and may reject a witness' testimony entirely
if warranted by disbelief of that witness.
Plummer v. Henderson Storage Co., 118 N.C. App. 727, 730, 456S.E.2d 886, 888 (internal citations omitted), disc. rev. denied,
340 N.C. 569, 460 S.E.2d 321 (1995). [W]here no exception is
taken to a finding of fact . . ., the finding is presumed to be
supported by competent evidence and is binding on appeal. Koufman
v. Koufman, 330 N.C. 93, 97, 408 S.E.2d 729, 731 (1991) (citation
IV. Occupational Disease
 Plaintiff contends the Commission erred by failing to
conclude plaintiff suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome as a result
of her employment with defendant. We disagree.
An individual seeking benefits under the Workers' Compensation
Act has the burden of proving each and every element of
compensability. Holley v. ACTS, Inc., 357 N.C. 228, 234, 581
S.E.2d 750, 754 (2003) (citations omitted).
Under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-53, in order for carpal tunnel
syndrome to be deemed compensable as an occupational disease,
plaintiff must prove: (1) the disease is characteristic of the
trade or occupation; (2) the disease is not an ordinary disease of
life to which the public is equally exposed outside of the
employment; and (3) there is a causal connection between the
disease and the employment. Thompson v. Tyson Foods, 119 N.C. App.
411, 413, 458 S.E.2d 746, 747 (1995) (citing Hansel v. Sherman
Textiles, 49 N.C. App. 1, 6, 270 S.E.2d 585, 588 (1980), rev'd on
other grounds, 304 N.C. 44, 283 S.E.2d 101 (1981)). The causal
connection element determines whether the work environment
significantly contributed to, or was a significant causal factorin the disease's development. Rutledge v. Tultex Corp., 308 N.C.
85, 101, 301 S.E.2d 359, 369-70 (1983).
Here, the Commission concluded plaintiff failed to satisfy her
burden of proving that she contracted the occupational disease of
carpal tunnel syndrome due to causes and conditions which are
characteristic of and peculiar to her occupation. Plaintiff
argues no competent evidence exists to support a finding that
plaintiff contracted her bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome any other
way besides her employment with [defendant]. This argument fails
to recognize our standard of review. Plaintiff addresses her first
assignment of error:
The Full Commission's Conclusion of Law
reading that Plaintiff failed to prove by the
greater weight of the evidence that shat [sic]
she has contracted the occupation disease of
carpal tunnel syndrome due to causes and
conditions which are characteristic of and
peculiar to her occupation on the basis that
the only relevant and competent evidence in
the record supports a finding that plaintiff
has contracted the occupational disease carpal
tunnel syndrome as a result of her job duties
with Defendant . . . .
As plaintiff only excepted to portions of the Commission's finding
number nine, we review her assignment of error for whether the
other findings of fact support the Commission's conclusion of law.
See Koufman, 330 N.C. at 97, 408 S.E.2d at 731; Plummer, 118 N.C.
App. at 730, 456 S.E.2d at 888.
The unchallenged findings show both of plaintiff's treating
physicians, Dr. Whitney and Dr. Alioto, testified that plaintiff
admitted her symptoms started with the sliding door injury of
April 2000. Dr. Alioto opined that plaintiff's job withdefendant could have been a contributing factor to plaintiff's
contracting carpal tunnel syndrome. (Emphasis supplied). The
Commission's findings show Dr. Whitney opined that it 'seems
reasonable' that plaintiff's carpal tunnel syndrome was caused by
her job. (Emphasis supplied). Dr. Edwards testified as an expert
in hand and wrist disorders and opined that there was no causal
relationship between plaintiff's job duties and her bilateral
carpal tunnel syndrome. (Emphasis supplied). These findings are
unchallenged and conclusive on appeal.
The Commission also found, The opinions of Dr. Edwards on
causation and increased risk are given greater weight than those of
Drs. Alioto and Whitney. The Commission was not required to give
plaintiff's expert witnesses' testimony more weight than that of
Dr. Edwards. See infra Adams v. AVX Corp., 349 N.C. 676, 681, 509
S.E.2d 411, 414 (1998), reh'g denied, 350 N.C. 108, 532 S.E.2d 522
(1999); see also Holley, 357 N.C. at 234, 581 S.E.2d at 754. The
Commission's conclusion of law that plaintiff failed to prove she
suffered an occupational disease as a result of her employment is
supported by the findings of fact. This assignment of error is
 Plaintiff contends the Commission erred by finding the
videotape submitted into evidence accurately depicted plaintiff's
primary job duties. Plaintiff fails to cite any authority in
support of her argument. This assignment of error is deemed
abandoned. N.C.R. App. P. 28(b)(6) (2004); see also DOT v. ElmLand Co., 163 N.C. App. 257, 264, 593 S.E.2d 131, 136, disc. rev.
denied, 358 N.C. 542, 599 S.E.2d 42 (2004).
VI. Weight of Testimony
 Plaintiff argues the opinions of Dr. Alioto and Dr.
Whitney should be given greater weight than Dr. Edwards's opinion.
[O]n appeal, this Court 'does not have the right to weigh the
evidence and decide the issue on the basis of its weight. The
court's duty goes no further than to determine whether the record
contains any evidence tending to support the finding.' Adams, 349
N.C. at 681, 509 S.E.2d at 414 (1998) (quoting Anderson v. Lincoln
Constr. Co., 265 N.C. 431, 434, 144 S.E.2d 272, 274 (1965)).
Plaintiff's argument that the Commission should have afforded more
weight to her treating physicians is without merit.
The Commission gave Dr. Edwards's opinions on causation and
increased risk greater weight than the opinions of Dr. Alioto and
Dr. Whitney. Dr. Edwards's testified that the aging process plays
a part in carpal tunnel syndrome and that carpal tunnel syndrome is
much more common in women. Dr. Edwards also testified to a
reasonable degree of medical certainty that there was not a
relationship between [plaintiff's] job and her development of
carpal tunnel syndrome. Dr. Edwards opined that plaintiff's age
was the chief factor resulting in her carpal tunnel syndrome.
Competent evidence supports the Commission's findings of fact
and its decision to give greater weight to Dr. Edwards's testimony
than to Dr. Alioto's and Dr. Whitney's testimony. Plaintiff failedto offer any authority to support her assertion that the videotape
did not accurately depict her job duties.
Plaintiff also argues her honesty and credibility require the
Commission to accept her testimony regarding her job duties as
true. Her argument is irrelevant to whether the Commission can
afford more weight to one testifying physician over another. This
assignment of error is overruled.
 Plaintiff also assigned error to the Commission's
conclusion of law that 'plaintiff is not entitled to compensation
under the Act.' Plaintiff argues there is relevant and competent
evidence that mandates a finding that plaintiff's bilateral carpal
tunnel syndrome is compensable. Plaintiff's brief fails to
present any authority in support of this broad assertion. This
assignment of error is abandoned pursuant to N.C.R. App. P.
The Commission's findings of fact are supported by competent
evidence in the record. These findings support the Commission's
conclusions of law. The Opinion and Award of the Full Commission
Judges BRYANT and LEVINSON concur.
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