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Merck & Co., Inc. v. Vincent

Court of Appeals of Virginia

January 14, 2020

MERCK & CO., INC.
v.
MERRICK B. VINCENT

          FROM THE VIRGINIA WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION

          Thomas G. Bell, Jr. (TimberlakeSmith, on briefs), for appellant.

          Stephen F. Forbes (Forbes & Broadwell, on brief), for appellee.

          Present: Judges Humphreys, Huff and AtLee Argued at Norfolk, Virginia

          OPINION

          GLEN A. HUFF, JUDGE

         Merck & Co., Inc. ("employer") appeals an award of permanent total disability to Merrick B. Vincent ("claimant"). Employer contends the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission erred by concluding that claimant's injury to his left arm and later compensable consequence injury to his left knee occurred "in the same accident" within the meaning of Code § 65.2-503(C). Because the compensable consequence doctrine imputes the occurrence of new injuries naturally following from the original injury to the original accident, the new injury occurred "in the same accident" for the purposes of Code § 65.2-503(C). This Court affirms.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The evidence is largely undisputed. Nevertheless, "[o]n appeal, [this Court] view[s] the evidence in the light most favorable to the prevailing party before the [C]ommission." King v. DTH Contract Servs. Inc., 69 Va.App. 703, 708 (2019) (second, third, and fourth alterations in original) (quoting Portsmouth Sch. Bd. v. Harris, 58 Va.App. 556, 559 (2011)). So viewed, the evidence is as follows:

         In 2009, claimant injured his left arm and neck while working for employer. The deputy commissioner awarded temporary total disability, and the Commission affirmed. Employer did not appeal that award.

         Claimant underwent surgery to treat these injuries. In 2011, he became dizzy and fell as a result of the pain medication he was taking in the aftermath of the surgery, injuring his knee in the fall. He sought compensation for the knee injury as a compensable consequence of the original work-related injury. The deputy commissioner awarded compensation, and employer did not request review by the Commission.

         In 2017, claimant requested total and permanent disability under Code § 65.2-503(C), which provides for total and permanent disability for the loss of two limbs "in the same accident." The deputy commissioner awarded compensation. Employer sought review, arguing that the knee injury, although a compensable consequence of the original injury, did not occur in the same accident as the original injury, precluding an award under Code § 65.2-503(C).[1] The full Commission unanimously affirmed, and this appeal followed.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The "application of the law to essential undisputed fact" is "a question of law" this Court reviews de novo. Hilton v. Martin, 275 Va. 176, 180 (2008). "Although this Court gives 'deference, on appeal, to the [C]ommission's construction of the Workers' Compensation Act, [it is] "not bound by the [C]ommission's legal analysis."'" King v. DTH Contract Servs. Inc., 69 Va.App. 703, ...


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