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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.
CHARLES R. ADAMS, Employee, Plaintiff, v. FRIT CAR, INC.,
Employer, Self-Insured, Defendant
Filed: 4 September 2007
1. Workers' Compensation--disability--physical restrictions caused by knee injury
The Industrial Commission did not err in a workers' compensation case by finding that
plaintiff worker had failed to establish disability due to his physical restrictions caused by his
knee injury, because: (1) plaintiff essentially asks the Court of Appeals to reweigh the evidence
on appeal, which is outside its standard of review; and (2) the full Commission's findings of fact
are supported by competent evidence, and its conclusions that plaintiff failed to establish
disability and that he was terminated for his own misconduct are also supported by its findings.
2. Workers' Compensation--anxiety and depression--causally related to knee injury
The Industrial Commission did not err in a workers' compensation case by concluding
that plaintiff workers' anxiety and depression are not causally related to his knee injury, because:
(1) the full Commission made an unchallenged finding that plaintiff had been getting treatment
for anxiety disorder and depression for approximately eight months prior to his injury by
accident, and his doctor never causally related her treatment of plaintiff to the September 2000
injury; and (2) the full Commission found that during his counseling sessions, plaintiff reported
that his anxiety and depression were related to the loss of his job and self esteem which was due
to his own misconduct.
3. Workers' Compensation--future medical treatment--knee injury
The Industrial Commission did not err in a workers' compensation case by concluding
that plaintiff is entitled to future medical treatment for his knee injury, because: (1) in light of the
depositions of two doctors, the full Commission had sufficient evidence to support its findings of
fact and to conclude that there was a substantial likelihood that plaintiff will need additional
treatment for his knee in the future regardless of what that treatment might entail; and (2) the
Court of Appeals cannot reweigh the evidence.
Appeal by plaintiff and cross-appeal by defendant from Opinion
and Award of the North Carolina Industrial Commission entered 22
May 2006. Heard in the Court of Appeals 22 May 2007.
Brumbaugh, Mu & King, P.A., by Nicole D. Wray, for plaintiff-
Brooks, Stevens & Pope, P.A., by Matthew P. Blake, Ginny P.
Lanier, and James A. Barnes, IV, for defendant-appellee/cross-
In general, our review of findings supporting an Opinion and
Award of the North Carolina Industrial Commission is limited to
determining whether any evidence supports the findings of fact.
(See footnote 1)
Here, the plaintiff and the defendant essentially ask us to re-
weigh the evidence and determine that the Full Commission erred in
its findings and conclusions. Because the standard of review for
worker's compensation cases prohibits the re-weighing of evidence
on appeal, we affirm the Opinion and Award.
On 13 September 2000, Plaintiff Charles Adams was working as
an employee for Defendant Frit Car, Inc., when he suffered an
injury to his right knee. Mr. Adams underwent arthroscopic knee
surgery in December 2000 and did not return to work at Frit Car
until February 2001, by which time his doctor had concluded Mr.
Adams had reached maximum medical improvement and assigned a ten
percent permanent partial disability rating to his knee. However,
upon his return to work, Mr. Adams was informed that his employers
had discovered numerous problems with his performance prior to his
injury, including the failure over an extended period of time to
file several safety reports and other documents that were a part of
his responsibilities. Frit Car terminated Mr. Adams for this poor
job performance, which they contend was unrelated to his knee
injury. Mr. Adams continued to have pain in his knee after he was
terminated by Frit Car, and he underwent additional surgery in
November 2001, as well as physical therapy through 2002. Mr. Adams
further suffered from anxiety and depression, for which he
received counseling and therapy for a number of years, but which he
contends was controlled by medication prior to his accident, yet
more severe afterwards. Mr. Adams remains unemployed since he was
terminated by Frit Car in February 2001, despite being cleared by
his doctor for sedentary work. Frit Car accepted his initial
worker's compensation claim as compensable and paid temporary total
disability benefits through 27 March 2002.
An Opinion and Award was filed by a Deputy Commissioner of the
Industrial Commission on 17 June 2003, which ordered Frit Car to
pay all medical expenses incurred by Mr. Adams as a result of his
September 2000 knee injury, but denied his claim for temporary
total disability from 15 February 2001 onward and denied his claim
for loss of earning capacity. Mr. Adams and Frit Car were also
ordered to pay their own respective costs.
Both sides appealed to the Full Commission, which entered an
Opinion and Award on 22 May 2006, affirming in part and modifying
in part, due to additional evidence received, the Opinion and Award
of the Deputy Commissioner. The Full Commission denied Mr. Adams's
claim for additional temporary total disability, as it found that
Frit Car had already paid for the period he was out of work,
namely, up to February 2001 and then from 19 November 2001 until 27
March 2002. The Full Commission also ordered that, if not alreadypaid, Frit Car should pay Mr. Adams permanent partial disability
compensation for a period of one hundred weeks for the fifty
percent permanent partial disability to his leg. Frit Car was
ordered to pay all of [Mr. Adams's] reasonably required medical
treatment resulting from his knee injury of September 13, 2000,
including past and future medical treatment, for so long as such
treatment is reasonably required to effect a cure, provide relief
and/or lessen his disability . . .. Mr. Adams's attorney was
awarded a fee of twenty-five percent of the compensation awarded to
Mr. Adams, and Frit Car was ordered to pay costs.
Both Mr. Adams and Frit Car now appeal. Mr. Adams argues that
the Full Commission erred when it found that (I) he had failed to
establish disability due to his physical restrictions caused by his
knee injury, and (II) his anxiety and depression are not causally
related to his knee injury; and Frit Car contends that the Full
Commission erred when it (III) concluded that Mr. Adams is entitled
to future medical treatment for his knee injury.
At the outset, we note that our review of an Opinion and Award
of the Full Commission of the North Carolina Industrial Commission
is limited to reviewing whether any competent evidence supports
the Commission's findings of fact and whether the findings of fact
support the Commission's conclusions of law. Deese v. Champion
Int'l Corp., 352 N.C. 109, 116, 530 S.E.2d 549, 553 (2000). In
particular, 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 recordcontains any evidence tending to support the finding. Adams v.
AVX Corp., 349 N.C. 676, 681, 509 S.E.2d 411, 414 (1998) (quoting
Anderson v. Construction Co., 265 N.C. 431, 434, 144 S.E.2d 272,
274 (1965)), reh'g denied, 350 N.C. 108, 532 S.E.2d 522 (1999).
Furthermore, if there is any evidence at all, taken in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party, the finding of fact
stands, even if there is substantial evidence supporting the
opposing position, id., and findings may be set aside on appeal
only where there is a complete lack of competent evidence to
support them. Rhodes v. Price Bros., Inc., 175 N.C. App. 219,
221, 622 S.E.2d 710, 712 (2005) (quotation omitted). However, we
review the Commission's conclusions of law de novo. Griggs v.
Eastern Omni Constructors, 158 N.C. App. 480, 483, 581 S.E.2d 138,
 First, Mr. Adams argues that the Full Commission erred by
finding that he had failed to establish disability due to his
physical restrictions caused by his knee injury. We disagree.
Under North Carolina General Statute § 97-32, [i]f an injured
employee refuses employment procured for him suitable to his
capacity, he shall not be entitled to any compensation at any time
during the continuance of such refusal, unless in the opinion of
the Industrial Commission such refusal was justified. N.C. Gen.
Stat. § 97-32 (2005). This Court has previously found that such
refusal can be either actual or constructive, as through
termination of employment due to misconduct or other fault on thepart of the employee. Seagraves v. Austin Co. of Greensboro, 123
N.C. App. 228, 233-34, 472 S.E.2d 397, 401 (1996).
Nevertheless, even if the employee is terminated due to
misconduct or other fault, the employee will not be automatically
barred from receiving disability benefits; instead,
the test is whether the employee's loss of, or
diminution in, wages is attributable to the
wrongful act resulting in loss of employment,
in which case benefits will be barred, or
whether such loss or diminution in earning
capacity is due to the employee's work-related
disability, in which case the employee will be
entitled to benefits for such disability.
Id. at 234, 472 S.E.2d at 401. Thus, we have established a two-
pronged approach to such situations:
[T]he employer must first show that the
employee was terminated for misconduct or
fault, unrelated to the compensable injury,
for which a nondisabled employee would
ordinarily have been terminated. If the
employer makes such a showing, the employee's
misconduct will be deemed to constitute a
constructive refusal to perform the work
provided and consequent forfeiture of benefits
for lost earnings, unless the employee is then
able to show that his or her inability to find
or hold other employment of any kind, or other
employment at a wage comparable to that earned
prior to the injury, is due to the
In its Opinion and Award, the Full Commission made the
following finding, challenged by Mr. Adams on appeal:
22. Defendant terminated Plaintiff on
February 19, 2001, due to his misconduct or
fault unrelated to his workers' compensation
claim and for which a non-disabled employee
would have been terminated. Except for the
period from November 19, 2001 through March
27, 2002, Plaintiff failed to establish thathis physical restrictions resulting from his
injury prevented him from earning his pre-
injury wages in any other employment after
Defendant terminated him on February 19, 2001.
The Full Commission also included findings, unchallenged by Mr.
Adams and therefore binding on this Court, that Mr. Adams had been
cleared for sedentary work by more than one doctor and that he had
ongoing problems with alcohol abuse, which might impact his
ability to look for work because of hangovers and blackouts, as
well as anxiety, depression, and use of prescription medications.
Significantly, Mr. Adams has not challenged the finding which
stated that Mr. Adams admitted that he did not do his job, but
blamed it on his ongoing battle with alcohol abuse. Defendant
terminated Plaintiff's employment on February 19, 2001, due to his
misconduct or fault.
All of these findings were supported by medical testimony and
other evidence in the record. Mr. Adams essentially asks us to re-
weigh the evidence on appeal, which is outside our standard of
review. Adams, 349 N.C. at 681, 509 S.E.2d at 414. We find that
the Full Commission's findings of fact are supported by competent
evidence, and their conclusions that Mr. Adams failed to establish
disability and that he was terminated for his own misconduct are
likewise supported by their findings. These assignments of error
are accordingly overruled.
 Next, Mr. Adams contends that the Full Commission erred by
failing to find that his anxiety and depression are causally
related to his knee injury. We disagree. According to the following finding made by the Full
Commission, unchallenged by Mr. Adams on appeal:
17. Plaintiff has been treated for anxiety
disorder and depression since at least the
1990's, but has not been restricted from
working as a result of these conditions. Dr.
Tara Knott had treated Plaintiff for his
anxiety disorder and depression for
approximately eight months prior to his injury
by accident and continues to treat him. In
her deposition testimony, Dr. Knott never
causally related her treatment of Plaintiff to
the September 2000 injury. She did indicate
that Plaintiff alleged that his anxiety and
depression were related to the injury, but she
never indicated that it was related.
Furthermore, the Full Commission found that during his counseling
sessions, Mr. Adams reported that his anxiety and depression were
related to the loss of his job and self esteem, which was due to
his own misconduct.
These findings, binding on appeal, support the Full
Commission's conclusion that Mr. Adams failed to show that his
anxiety disorder and depression are causally related to his
compensable injury. This assignment of error is overruled.
 Finally, Frit Car argues that the Full Commission erred
when it concluded that Mr. Adams is entitled to future medical
treatment for his knee injury. We disagree.
After an employee has established a compensable injury under
the Workers' Compensation Act, he may seek compensation for
additional medical treatment when such treatment lessens the
period of disability, effects a cure or gives relief. Parsons v.
, 126 N.C. App. 540, 541-42, 485 S.E.2d 867, 869(1997). However, such treatment must be directly related to the
original compensable injury, with the burden on the employer to
produce evidence showing the treatment is not directly related to
the compensable injury. Pittman v. Thomas & Howard
, 122 N.C. App.
124, 130, 468 S.E.2d 283, 286, disc. review denied
, 343 N.C. 513,
472 S.E.2d 18 (1996). Moreover, the Commission must determine that
there is a substantial risk of the necessity of future medical
compensation to order such payment. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-25.1
Here, the Full Commission made a number of specific findings
as to two doctors' testimony that Mr. Adams would likely need
additional medical treatment for his knee in the future, and that
such treatment was causally related to the 2000 knee injury.
Nevertheless, the Full Commission did not find that a total knee
replacement would definitely be necessary, or that there is even a
substantial risk of a need for such surgery. Rather, the Full
Commission found that [a]s a result of his knee injury, [Mr.
Adams] will require future medical treatment including a possible
total knee replacement
. (Emphasis added).
In light of the depositions from Drs. Esposito and Miller, the
Full Commission had sufficient evidence to support their findings
of fact and to conclude that there is a substantial likelihood that
Mr. Adams will need additional treatment for his knee in the
future, regardless of what that treatment might entail. We refuse
to reweigh the evidence before us and therefore find that the Full
Commission made the requisite findings as to substantial risk ofthe necessity of future medical compensation. These assignments
of error are overruled.
Judges HUNTER and CALABRIA concur.
Adams v. AVX Corp.
, 349 N.C. 676, 681, 509 S.E.2d 411, 414
(1998) (quoting Anderson v. Construction Co.
, 265 N.C. 431, 434,
144 S.E.2d 272, 274 (1965)), reh'g denied
, 350 N.C. 108, 532
S.E.2d 522 (1999).
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