from Jefferson Circuit Court (CV-16-903224)
Leasing Company - South Central, LLC ("the
employer"), appeals from a judgment of the Jefferson
Circuit Court ("the trial court") awarding
workers' compensation benefits to Benson Drake ("the
employee"). We affirm the trial court's judgment.
parties have previously appeared before this court. See
Enterprise Leasing Company-South Central, LLC v. Drake,
[Ms. 2170870, Jan. 4, 2019] So.3d (Ala. Civ. App.
2019). In Drake, this court summarized
the procedural history of the case:
"On September 1, 2016, the employee filed a verified
complaint against the employer alleging, among other things,
that, on August 21, 2015, he had suffered an injury to his
left knee while acting in the line and scope of his
employment with the employer and that he had also suffered an
injury to his right knee as a result of the injury to his
left knee. The employee sought an award of benefits pursuant
to the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act ('the
Act'), Ala. Code 1975, § 25-5-1 et seq. The employer
filed an answer on October 12, 2016.
"On February 28, 2018, the parties filed in the trial
court a number of stipulations of fact. A bench trial was
conducted on March 8, 2018, after which both parties filed
trial briefs with the court. On March 27, 2018, the trial
court entered a final judgment in favor of the employee; on
that same date, the trial court entered an amended judgment
in favor of the employee and against the employer, assigning
the employee 'a 50% permanent partial impairment rating
to both his legs as a result of his on-the-job-injuries'
and concluding that the employee 'is entitled to a 15%
fee of the award for Permanent Partial Disability
benefits.' The employer filed a postjudgment motion on
April 26, 2018; the trial court denied that motion on April
30, 2018. The employer filed its notice of appeal to this
court on June 5, 2018."
__So. 3d at __(footnote omitted).
Drake, this court concluded, among other things,
that the employee's claim that his right-knee injury was
the result of the overuse of his right knee following the
injury to his left knee is subject to the
clear-and-convincing standard outlined in § 25-5-81(c),
Ala. Code 1975. To the extent that the trial court used an
incorrect evidentiary standard, this court reversed the trial
court's judgment and remanded the case, directing the
trial court to, among other things, apply the correct
standard, to make appropriate findings fact, and to determine
whether the employee had proved by clear and convincing
evidence that his right-knee injury was a direct and natural
consequence of his left-knee injury. Following this
court's reversal, the trial court entered an amended
judgment on January 24, 2019, which, among other things,
assigned the employee "a 5% permanent partial impairment
rating to his left knee and a 2% permanent partial impairment
rating to his right knee due to his on-the-job injury."
On January 28, 2019, the employee filed a postjudgment motion
challenging the trial court's reduction in the
permanent-partial-impairment rating to both knees. The
employer filed an objection to the employee's
postjudgment motion on February 4, 2019.
March 7, 2019, the trial court entered an order granting the
employee's postjudgment motion and amending its January
24, 2019, judgment to state:
"Under § 25-5-81(c)[, Ala. Code 1975], the burden
of proof for an accidental injury differs from that of an
injury due to cumulative physical stress.
"'The decision of the court shall be based on a
preponderance of the evidence as contained in the record of
the hearing, except in cases involving injuries which have
resulted from gradual deterioration or cumulative physical
stress disorders, which shall be deemed compensable only upon
a finding of clear and convincing proof that those injuries
arose out of and in the course of the employee's
"'For the purposes of this amendatory act,
"clear and convincing" shall mean evidence that,
when weighted against evidence in opposition, will produce in
the mind of the trier of fact a firm conviction as to each
essential element of the claim and a high probability as to
the correctness of the conclusion. Proof by clear and
convincing evidence requires a level of proof greater than a
preponderance of the ...