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Ex parte Sea Coast Disposal, Inc.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

November 15, 2019

Ex parte Sea Coast Disposal, Inc.
v.
Sea Coast Disposal, Inc. In re: Shawn O. Bell

          Dallas Circuit Court, CV-18-900185

          PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS

          DONALDSON, JUDGE.

         Sea Coast Disposal, Inc. ("the employer"), petitions this court for a writ of mandamus directing the Dallas Circuit Court ("the trial court") to vacate that portion of its July 24, 2019, order finding that the neck and lower back injuries of Shawn O. Bell ("the employee") are compensable under the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act ("the Act"), § 25-5-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975. We grant the petition in part and deny it in part.

         Procedural History

         On July 20, 2018, the employee sued the employer, alleging that, while working within the line and scope of his employment with the employer as a garbage-truck driver on November 24, 2017, he had injured his left shoulder, neck, and lower back when he lifted a garbage can that had been overturned by the robotic arm on the garbage truck he was driving. As relief, the employee sought compensation and medical and vocational benefits pursuant to the Act. On July 12, 2019, the trial court held a bench trial that was limited to the issue whether the employee's injuries to his left shoulder, neck, and lower back are compensable under the Act. On July 24, 2019, the trial court entered an order finding that those injuries are compensable but reserving a ruling on the remaining issues. The employer filed its petition for a writ of mandamus on September 3, 2019, which was within the 42-day presumptively reasonable time for doing so. See Rule 21(a)(3), Ala. R. App. P. ("The presumptively reasonable time for filing a petition seeking [mandamus] review of an order of a trial court ... shall be the same as for taking an appeal."); and § 25-5-81(e), Ala. Code 1975 (providing that the period for filing a notice of appeal from an order or judgment in a workers' compensation action is 42 days).

         Propriety of Mandamus Review and Requirements for Mandamus Relief

         Because the trial court's July 24, 2019, order did not dispose of all the issues pending before the trial court, it is not a final judgment from which an appeal will lie under current caselaw. See, e.g., Adams v. NaphCare, Inc., 869 So.2d 1179, 1181 (Ala. Civ. App. 2003). This court has held that a petition for a writ of mandamus is the appropriate means of seeking review of an interlocutory order determining compensability in a workers' compensation action. See Ex parte Ampro Prods., Inc., 252 So.3d 683, 687 (Ala. Civ. App. 2017) (holding that a petition for a writ of mandamus was the appropriate means of seeking review of a trial court's order finding an employee's injury compensable under the Act but reserving a ruling on other issues); see also Ex parte Fairhope Health & Rehab, LLC, 175 So.3d 622, 626 (Ala. Civ. App. 2015) (the same). Therefore, the employer's petition for the writ of mandamus is appropriately before us.

"Mandamus is a drastic and extraordinary writ, to be issued only where there is (1) a clear legal right in the petitioner to the order sought; (2) an imperative duty upon the respondent to perform, accompanied by a refusal to do so; (3) the lack of another adequate remedy; and (4) properly invoked jurisdiction of the court."

Ex parte Integon Corp., 672 So.2d 497, 499 (Ala. 1995).

         Issues

         The employer argues that substantial evidence does not support the trial court's findings that the employee's neck and lower back injuries are compensable.

"'"[F]or an injury to be compensable under the Workers' Compensation Act, the employee must establish both legal and medical causation." Ex parte Moncrief, 627 So.2d 385, 388 (Ala. 1993). "Once legal causation has been established, i.e., that an accident arose out of, and in the course of employment, medical causation must be established, i.e., that the accident caused the injury for which recovery is sought." Hammons v. Roses Stores, Inc., 547 So.2d 883, 885 (Ala. Civ. App. 1989).'

"Ex parte Southern Energy Homes, Inc., 873 So.2d 1116, 1121 (Ala. 2003)."

         Ex parte Fairhope Health & Rehab, LLC, 175 So.3d at 627. The employer does not challenge the trial court's finding that the employee's left-shoulder injury is compensable as the result of an accident that arose out of and in the course of the employee's employment on November 24, 2017 ("the November 24, 2017, accident"). The employer asserts that the November 24, 2017, accident was not, however, the medical cause of the employee's neck and lower back injuries. Therefore, our review is limited to determining the propriety of the trial court's finding that the ...


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