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Taylor v. Stevens

Filed: June 15, 1982.

LUCY WOOD TAYLOR, EMPLOYEE-PLAINTIFF
v.
J. P. STEVENS & COMPANY, INC., EMPLOYER AND LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, CARRIER-DEFENDANT



Appeal by plaintiff from the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Opinion and award filed 20 November 1980. Heard in the Court of Appeals 10 December 1981.

Clark, Judge. Judge Whichard concurs. Judge Becton dissents.

Clark

The plaintiff presents two arguments on this appeal: (1) that the plaintiff is entitled to increased benefits under G.S. 97-29.1; and (2) that the "Commission erred and abused its discretion in denying plaintiff-appellant's motion for attorney's fees under G.S. 97-88 and G.S. 97-88.1."

I

We first address the increase of the award under G.S. 97-29.1, which reads in part:

In all cases of total and permanent disability occurring prior to July 1, 1973, weekly compensation payments shall be increased effective July 1, 1977, to an amount computed by multiplying the number of calender years prior to July 1, 1973, that the case arose by five percent (5%).

And how are we to interpret this statute? Our courts have offered guidance:

The primary rule of statutory construction is that the intent of the legislature controls the interpretation of a statute. In seeking to discover this intent, the courts should consider the language of the statute, the spirit of the act, and what

the act seeks to accomplish. [Citations omitted.]. . . "In seeking to discover and give effect to the legislative intent, an act must be considered as a whole, and none of its provisions shall be deemed useless or redundant if they can reasonably be considered as adding something to the act which is in harmony with its purpose. [Citations omitted.]" State v. Harvey, [281 N.C.] 1, 187 S.E.2d 706 [1972].

Stevenson v. City of Durham, 281 N.C. 300, 303, 188 S.E.2d 281, 283 (1972).

Our Supreme Court has said that "benefits under the [Worker's Compensation] Act 'should not be denied by a technical, narrow and strict construction.'" Petty v. Transport, Inc., 276 N.C. 417, 426, 173 S.E.2d 321, 328 (1970), quoting Hollman v. City of Raleigh, 273 N.C. 240, 252, 159 S.E.2d 874, 882 (1968). And while it has been said that the Act is to be liberally construed to give full effect to its purpose, out Supreme Court has put this construction in perspective. In Barnhardt v. Cab Co., 266 N.C. 419, 427, 146 S.E.2d 479, 484 (1966) the Court said:

It is frequently said that the Workmen's Compensation Act must be liberally construed to accomplish the humane purpose for which it was passed, i.e., compensation for injured employees. The purpose of the Act, however, is not only to provide a swift and certain remedy to an injured workman, but also to insure a limited and determinate liability for employers. [Citation ...


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