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Bolles v. Midwest Sheet Metal Co., Inc.

Court of Appeals of Nebraska

March 11, 2014


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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Appeal from the Workers' Compensation Court: JOHN R. HOFFERT, Judge.

Darla S. Ideus, of Baylor, Evnen, Curtiss, Grimit & Witt, L.L.P., for appellant.

John C. Fowles, of Fowles Law Office, P.C., L.L.O., and John F. Vipperman, of Anderson, Vipperman & Kovanda, for appellee.



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[21 Neb.App. 823] Irwin, Judge.


Gregory Bolles suffered a heart attack while working for Midwest Sheet Metal Co., Inc. (Midwest), and died as a result. Midwest appeals an award of the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court awarding benefits to Bolles' wife, Stacy Bolles

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(Stacy). On appeal, Midwest asserts that the compensation court's award did not comply with Workers' Comp. Ct. R. of Proc. 11 (2011), because it contained insufficient factual findings, and asserts that the compensation court erred in [21 Neb.App. 824] finding that Stacy met her burden of proof with regard to both factual and legal causation. We affirm.


1. Work and Incident

The events giving rise to this cause of action occurred on or about July 27, 2011. On that date, Bolles was employed by Midwest as a foreman. Evidence adduced at trial indicated that Bolles began work on that date at the Midwest shop in Grand Island, Nebraska, at approximately 7 a.m. Bolles ran some errands and picked up some necessary materials, and Bolles and a coworker picked up a compressor for an air-conditioning unit at a supply shop in Grand Island.

There was conflicting evidence about what time Bolles and the coworker arrived at the jobsite for that date, which was in Harvard, Nebraska. There was evidence that they arrived at the jobsite between 9:15 and 9:30 a.m.; there was also evidence that it may have been as late as " around noonish."

Bolles and his coworkers were to replace the compressor in an air-conditioning unit at a nursing home. The evidence adduced at trial indicated that this was a big and time-consuming job. The air-conditioning unit was a large unit, with sheet metal panels on the outside; was situated on two metal rails on concrete slabs; and was located several feet off the ground. The unit was located in a fenced area, with the fencing mostly obscuring the unit from view and shielding it from wind.

When Bolles arrived at the worksite, some of the side panels had been removed. Bolles began working with a screw gun to detach other metal panels. Bolles then climbed up and into the unit and worked inside of it for approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Bolles worked to remove bolts and flanges that kept the compressor in place, and he utilized hand wrenches, ratchets, and screwdrivers to remove the bolts and flanges. There was evidence that Bolles spent the time inside the unit bent over and squatting while removing the bolts and flanges.

Once the compressor was disconnected, Bolles and a coworker attached chains and manipulated the compressor out [21 Neb.App. 825] of the air-conditioning unit while another coworker operated a front-end loader to actually lift the compressor. The evidence indicates that the compressor that had to be removed weighed as much as 400 pounds. The evidence indicated that Bolles " had to shove it around to clear the pipes" and guide it out of the air-conditioning unit. The process of maneuvering the compressor out of the air-conditioning unit took approximately 30 minutes.

After the compressor was successfully lifted out of the air-conditioning unit, it was placed on the ground. Bolles and his coworkers then removed a variety of other parts, which involved more use of handtools and wrenches.

Parts were then attached to the new compressor, the new compressor was lifted with the front-end loader, and Bolles worked to guide the new compressor into the air-conditioning unit. Bolles was again inside the air-conditioning unit to guide the new compressor into place.

Once the new compressor was inside the air-conditioning unit, all of the bolts and flanges had to be replaced to connect and secure the new compressor. During that time, Bolles was inside the air-conditioning

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unit and, for the majority of the time, bent over and using handtools to connect the bolts and flanges. Connecting the new compressor took approximately another hour.

After the new compressor was connected and secured, it was discovered that nitrogen was needed. Bolles left the worksite and drove to meet another Midwest employee to pick up additional nitrogen. Bolles met the other employee approximately halfway between Harvard and Hastings, Nebraska; the evidence indicates that the distance between Harvard and Hastings was approximately 18 miles, or approximately a 30-minute drive. Bolles then returned to the worksite in Harvard. Bolles then climbed back up on ...

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