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Walston v. Burlington Industries

Filed: January 12, 1982.

CULLEN WALSTON, EMPLOYEE, PLAINTIFF
v.
BURLINGTON INDUSTRIES, EMPLOYER, AND LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, CARRIER, DEFENDANTS



On discretionary review of decision of the Court of Appeals, Huskins, Justice. Justices Exum and Carlton concur in the result.

Huskins

We said in Morrison v. Burlington Industries, 304 N.C. 1, 282 S.E.2d 458 (1981):

Except as to questions of jurisdiction, the rule is that the findings of fact made by the Commission are conclusive on appeal when supported by competent evidence. This is so even though there is evidence to support a contrary finding

of fact. Morrison v. Burlington Industries, 301 N.C. 226, 271 S.E.2d 364 (1980); Inscoe v. Industries, Inc., 292 N.C. 210, 232 S.E.2d 449 (1977); Anderson v. Construction Co., 265 N.C. 431, 144 S.E.2d 272 (1965); Rice v. Chair Co., 238 N.C. 121, 76 S.E.2d 311 (1953); Henry v. Leather Co., 231 N.C. 477, 57 S.E.2d 760 (1950). The appellate court does not retry the facts. It merely determines from the proceedings before the Commission whether sufficient competent evidence exists to support its findings of fact. Moses v. Bartholomew, 238 N.C. 714, 78 S.E.2d 923 (1953).

Id. at , 282 S.E.2d at 463. We first determine whether there is competent evidence to support the findings of the Industrial Commission.

All pertinent portions of the evidence in this case are set out in the statement of facts. The overwhelming thrust of that evidence is to the effect that Mr. Walston suffers from chronic bronchitis, pulmonary emphysema, asthma, "possible byssinosis," and chronic pulmonary fibrosis. When asked whether plaintiff's respiratory diseases and breathing problems were due to causes and conditions peculiar to his employment and to which the general public is not equally exposed, Dr. Williams said:

I don't think we could exclude the possibility, if it were indeed dusty in the cloth room where this man was employed, that it could have played a role in the etiology of his problems. . . . The cloth room is reputed to be a fairly clean area of the mill as far as dust is concerned. . . . A fairly dust-free environment.

When asked whether plaintiff's exposure to cotton dust for thirty years in his employment could have caused his respiratory disease, Dr. Williams replied:

My opinion is that it could possibly have played a role in the causation of his pulmonary problems. . . . [I]f it did, it would be more likely a contributory role rather than a single cause and effect relationship. [Emphasis supplied.]

Dr. Williams further testified that plaintiff's cigarette smoking would "most likely play a part in his pulmonary disability," adding that plaintiff did not have a classical history of byssinosis which raised doubts in his mind as to whether plaintiff had byssinosis in the first place. The doctor was unable to give percentages

regarding the relative contributions to plaintiff's lung disease by (1) his exposure to cotton dust and ...


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