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Martinez v. International Paper Co.

Court of Appeals of Nebraska

January 7, 2020

Jose Martinez, appellee,
v.
International Paper Company, a foreign corporation, and Old Republic Insurance Company, appellants.

         1. Workers' Compensation: Appeal and Error. A judgment, order, or award of the Workers' Compensation court may be modified, reversed, or set aside only upon the grounds that (1) the compensation court acted without or in excess of its powers; (2) the judgment, order, or award was procured by fraud; (3) there is not sufficient competent evidence in the record to warrant the making of the order, judgment, or award; or (4) the findings of fact by the compensation court do not support the order or award.

         2. ___: ___. Determinations by a trial judge of the compensation court will not be disturbed on appeal unless they are contrary to law or depend on findings of fact which are clearly wrong in light of the evidence.

         3. ___: ___. On appellate review, the factual findings made by the trial judge of the compensation court have the effect of a jury verdict and will not be disturbed unless clearly wrong.

         4. ___: ___. An appellate court is obligated in compensation court cases to make its own determinations as to questions of law.

         5. Courts: Appeal and Error. Under the doctrine of stare decisis, lower courts must follow the precedent of higher appellate courts.

         6. Workers' Compensation: Proof. Under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-151(2) (Reissue 2010), an injured worker must satisfy three elements to prove an injury is the result of an accident: (1) The injury must be unexpected or unforeseen, (2) the accident must happen suddenly and violently, and (3) the accident must produce at the time objective symptoms of injury.

         7. Workers' Compensation: Time: Proof: Words and Phrases. Under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-151(2) (Reissue 2010), "suddenly and violently" [27 Neb. 934] does not mean instantaneously and with force; instead, the element is satisfied if the injury occurs at an identifiable point in time, requiring the employee to discontinue employment and seek medical treatment. The time of an accident is sufficiently definite if either the cause is reasonably limited in time or the result materializes at an identifiable point.

         8. Workers' Compensation: Time: Proof. An employee establishes an identifiable point in time when a repetitive trauma injury occurs if the employee discontinues work and seeks medical treatment; it does not matter how long the discontinuation of employment lasts.

         9. Workers' Compensation. As the trier of fact, the compensation court is the sole judge of the credibility of witnesses and the weight to be given their testimony.

          Appeal from the Workers' Compensation Court: Daniel R. Fridrich, Judge. Affirmed.

          Timothy E. Clarke and Eric J. Sutton, of Baylor Evnen, L.L.P., for appellants.

          Jamie Gaylene Scholz, of Law Offices of Jamie G. Scholz, PC, L.L.O., for appellee.

          Pirtle, Riedmann, and Welch, Judges.

          RIEDMANN, JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         International Paper Company and Old Republic Insurance Company (collectively International Paper) appeal the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court's award, finding that Jose Martinez suffered a repetitive trauma injury and ...


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