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12/02/94 GOLD KIST v. JUANITA MULLINAX

December 2, 1994

GOLD KIST, INC.
v.
JUANITA MULLINAX



Appeal from Marshall Circuit Court. (CV-90-411). William D. Jetton, TRIAL JUDGE.

Released for Publication March 10, 1995.

Thigpen, Judge. Robertson, P.j., and Yates, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thigpen

THIGPEN, Judge

This is a workmen's compensation case. *fn1

Juanita Mullinax filed a complaint in October 1990, alleging that on July 20, 1990, she was injured in the course of her employment with Gold Kist, Inc. She alleged that as she was walking back to her work station, she slipped into an uncovered drain and injured her right leg. Gold Kist answered, admitting that Mullinax had suffered an accident on the job, but denying the nature and extent of the injury and the alleged disability.

Following ore tenus proceedings, the trial court entered an order finding, inter alia, that Mullinax had suffered a loss of ability to earn, and awarding her benefits for temporary total disability, temporary partial disability, and permanent partial disability. The trial court granted Gold Kist a credit for paid temporary total disability benefits; however, no credit was given for advance payments made by Gold Kist to Mullinax for permanent partial disability. The trial court denied Gold Kist's post-judgment motion; hence, this appeal.

The only issue on appeal is whether the trial court erred in not crediting, toward the amount determined by the court to be due and owing, advance permanent partial disability payments made by Gold Kist to Mullinax.

At trial, the parties stipulated that, prior to trial, Gold Kist had paid certain specified benefits to Mullinax for temporary total disability and for permanent partial disability, and that the only issue remaining for trial was a determination of the percentage of disability. The trial court acknowledged the parties' stipulations in its judgment and made additional findings regarding Mullinax's disability and her entitlement to benefits. It then ordered specific benefits, allowed Gold Kist credit for advance payments for temporary total disability, and denied Gold Kist a credit for the permanent partial disability payments to Mullinax.

On appeal, Gold Kist specifically argues that the trial court did not draw the correct legal Conclusions from the findings of fact; i.e., that the trial court erred in ruling that no credit is allowed for advance payments of permanent partial disability when the final recovery is for a scheduled member.

Our review is a two-step process. Ex parte Eastwood Foods, Inc., 575 So. 2d 91 (Ala. 1991). First, we must "look to see if there is any legal evidence to support the trial court's findings," and next, if such evidence is found, we must determine "whether any reasonable view of that evidence supports the trial court's judgment." Eastwood at 93. Further, if one reasonable view of the evidence will support the trial court's judgment, we must affirm, "even if another, perhaps better reasoned view of the evidence might have dictated a different outcome." Ex parte Veazey, 637 So. 2d 1348, 1349 (Ala. 1993). Legal Conclusions, however, are not entitled to a presumption of correctness, and this court must determine whether the correct legal Conclusions have been drawn from the trial court's findings. Eastwood, (supra) .

The trial court's denial of credit for Gold Kist's permanent partial disability advance payments is addressed in the trial court's order denying Gold Kist's post-judgment motion, which states that "the court considered [advance payments made by Gold Kist for permanent partial disability] as one for a scheduled member, ... pursuant to section 25-5-57(a)(3)16, Code of Alabama.... For a scheduled member, a credit is not allowed." Additionally, the trial court rejected Gold Kist's contention that the sums previously paid were advance payments, pursuant to Ala. Code 1975, § 25-5-56, by stating that "no such payments were pleaded as required."

Our review of the Workmen's Compensation Act reveals nothing barring a credit for advance payments of permanent partial disability benefits. Although no section of the Act specifically provides for an employer to be given credit for permanent partial disability benefits paid prior to a trial court's judgment, the Act appears to favor the payment of benefits prior to litigation. In pertinent part, Ala. Code 1975, § 25-5-56, states,

"All moneys voluntarily paid by the employer or insurance carrier to an injured employee in advance of agreement or award shall be treated as advance payments on account of the compensation. In order to encourage advance payments, it is expressly provided that such payments shall not ...


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