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In re Mitchell

Supreme Court of Arizona

July 7, 1944

THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION OF ARIZONA, and RAY GILBERT, FRED E. EDWARDS and EARL G. ROOKS, as Members of the Industrial Commission of Arizona, Respondents

APPEAL by Certiorari from an award of The Industrial Commission of Arizona. Award affirmed.

Messrs. Fennemore, Craig, Allen & Bledsoe, for Petitioner.

Mr. H. S. McCluskey and Mr. Fred O. Wilson, for Respondent Commission.

Mr. Louis B. Whitney, for Applicants.


Page 356

[61 Ariz. 438] UDALL, Superior Judge.

This is a certiorari proceeding under the Workmen's Compensation Law, Article 9, of Chapter 56, Arizona Code Annotated 1939, brought to this court by the Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company, a corporation, hereinafter termed the petitioner. It seeks a reversal of an award made August 12, 1943, to Edna S. Mitchell, applicant, for death benefits payable to her for the support of herself and their four minor children then aged 12, 10, 6 and 4 years, respectively. No question is raised as to the amount of the award.

The petitioner-employer was insured with the Industrial Commission of Arizona, as the insurance carrier. Admittedly at the time of the injury both the employee, Mitchell, now deceased, and the employer were subject to the Arizona Workmen's Compensation Law and to the jurisdiction of the commission. Application for rehearing was denied on September 3, 1943, and within the time allowed by law this proceeding for review was initiated.

There are but two questions raised: (a) Does the evidence in the case support the finding of the Industrial Commission of Arizona that the deceased employee died as a result of carbon tetrachloride poisoning; (b) Did the deceased die as a result of an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment within the true meaning of the Workmen's Compensation Law of Arizona?

If this court finds the answer to either or both of these questions is in the negative then the award should be set aside, on the other hand if the answer to both questions is in the affirmative the award should be sustained.

A proper determination of these questions requires a close review and analysis of the evidence as well as the application of the statutory law to the peculiar facts of this case.

[61 Ariz. 439] While there is some conflict in the medical testimony, we state the evidence in its strongest light in favor of the claim of the applicant. The Commission having made an award to her she is entitled to have the evidence thus considered by us.

Clarence Mitchell, for whose death benefits were awarded by the Commission, was a white American, aged 38 years. He had been in the employ of the petitioner for several years maintaining telephones.

Prior to his last illness, which occurred late in the month of December, 1942, the general health of the deceased was good.

His employment record during the year 1942, based upon a 40-hour week, was nearly perfect. He was absent from work on account of illness only two days during the year.

On or about October 1, 1942, the deceased was assigned to the work of overhauling and repairing telephone switchboards maintained by the petitioner. As a recondition repair man he had worked at various locations prior to December 24, 1942, when he was assigned by the petitioner to service the switchboard at the plant of the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation, at Litchfield Park, Arizona.

In the work that he was doing subsequent to October 1, 1942, the deceased was required to and did use small quantities of carbon tetrachloride at different times and under varying conditions, without any apparent ill effects until he went to work on the switchboard at the Goodyear plant.

Specifically his work involved cleaning the contacts or terminals in the switchboard relays. The space between the contacts in the relays being only 30/1000 of an inch, the usual method of cleaning same was to dip a wooden toothpick in a small bottle of the carbon tetrachloride and apply the chemical to the points. Ordinarily the actual use of the fluid was not [61 Ariz. 440] more than five or ten minutes at any one time and it would be so used at intervals of six or seven times a day. The record does not disclose as to what amount or how frequently the deceased used this fluid on the Goodyear

Page 357

job. This work required close application and scrutiny.

The switchboard upon which the deceased was working at Goodyear was then located in a room 12 1/2 X 11 1/2 X 9 1/2 feet, which was walled off from the officers' conference room by plywood. The ventilating system was so installed that it was not possible to ventilate the telephone switchboard room without ventilating the officers' conference room. There were employed in the telephone switchboard room, two telephone operators, a relief operator, and two girls operating the teletype machines, and there frequently were as many as ten people in the room.

The telephone switchboard room was a dark room with no windows. It had two small lattice vents near the floor; there was a trap in one corner which could be opened for an escape in an emergency. There was one door which opened near the machine shop but by reason of the noise from the machine shop it was necessary to keep the door closed, in order for the switchboard operators to perform their work. The only ventilation in the room came from a ventilator in the ceiling through which heat from the gas furnaces, or cold air could be brought in the room. This was controlled by a switch. When the cold air was turned on, the officers in the conference room, which was amply ventilated, directed that the switch be thrown and the cold air turned off. The telephone switchboard room was always stuffy and as testified to by some of the women operators "it was almost impossible to sit in there, it was choking and suffocating and practically all of the employees were ill, suffering from colds all winter." In passing it might be [61 Ariz. 441] noted that the quarters then in use were temporary. Later the exchange was moved to more commodious and better ventilated quarters.

While performing hi s work at the Goodyear plant, the deceased worked in small, confined quarters, about 2 1/2 feet wide, between the switchboard and the cable terminal box. This space was further confined by the wall at one end and the teletype apparatus located within a few feet of where the deceased was working at the other end. The space where he was working was just barely large enough to admit his body and tool box and to pe r mit him to squat down and sit on a box and do his work.

The telephone switchboard room was illuminated by fluorescent lighting but the deceased required an electric light back of the switchboard to see what he was doing. The light, of course, was productive of heat, as were the ...

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