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Ireland v. Industrial Commission

Supreme Court of Arizona

April 4, 1962

R. M. IRELAND, Sr., Petitioner,
v.
The INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION of Arizona, Respondent, and C. T. R. Bates, Defendant Employer.

In Banc.

[91 Ariz. 137] Estes & Browning, by William D. Browning, and Paul G. Rees, Jr., Tucson, for petitioner.

Lorin G. Shelley, Phoenix, for respondent Industrial Commission of Arizona. Donald J. Morgan, Edward E. Davis, and C. E. Singer, Jr., Phoenix, of counsel.

UDALL, Vice Chief Justice.

Certiorari to review an award made by the Commission after a hearing held on March 28, 1961, at which time the claim of the petitioner was found to be noncompensable.

The material facts pertaining to this case show that petitioner was employed by C. T. R. Bates at the latter's ranch located in the Chiricahua Mountains in southern Arizona. The petitioner, recently retired from civil service, was 67 years of age at the time of the injury complained of. His medical record reflects a back injury in 1941 which required a spinal fusion of the lower back.

It is claimed by the petitioner that on the 13th of May, 1960, while moving rocks in

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the course of his employment, he incurred a severe back injury for which he is entitled to receive compensation. Petitioner asserts that immediately thereafter he reported his injury to Mr. Amos DeVore, a fellow employee. The petitioner remained at the ranch until May 23d, when he took his wife to Tucson for medical attention. While returning from Tucson to the ranch the automobile which he was driving left the road and tipped over. Petitioner sustained some superficial injuries to his body but claims that his back was not further injured in the accident.

Petitioner first contends that respondent erred in not finding that he was injured in the course of his employment. Secondly it is claimed by petitioner that the commission admitted certain testimony that should not have been admitted in evidence and rejected other testimony that should have been admitted.

It is the law of this state that 'where evidence of an interested witness is corroborated by disinterested witnesses, a rejection of that evidence amounts to arbitrary action by the triers of fact.' Stanley v. Moan, 71 Ariz. 359, 361, 227 P.2d 389, 391 (1951); In re Gary's Estate, [91 Ariz. 138] 69 Ariz. 228, 211 P.2d 815 (1949). The natural corollary to this proposition of law is that the commission may reject the testimony of an interested witness that is not corroborated by a disinterested witness or witnesses. 'The commission may disregard the testimony of an interested party and consider anything extrinsic in the circumstances of the case which casts suspicion thereon.' Korff v. Charles Luke Const. Corp., 69 Ariz. 312, 315, 213 P.2d 471, 472 (1950). '* * * [A]s trier of the facts it is the privilege and duty of the commission--and not of this court--to resolve all conflicts and draw warranted inferences * * * where two inferences may be drawn, the commission is at liberty to choose either, and its conclusion will not be disturbed unless it is wholly unreasonable * * *.' Muchmore v. Industrial Commission, 81 Ariz. 345, 351-52, 306 P.2d 272, 276 (1957).

Petitioner testified that he received a back injury while loading and unloading stone during the course of his employment. However, there is a serious question as to whether there was any corroboration of his testimony. Petitioner asserts that the witness DeVore substantiated and corroborated his testimony in this respect. DeVore related the conversation that he had with petitioner immediately after the alleged accident, in part as follows:

'Q At any time during those three days, 13th, 14th and 15th of May, were you aware that Mr. Ireland had injured himself in any way, shape or form?

'A He complained about his back hurting him; he complained about it right along.

* * *

* * *

'Q What did he tell you about ...


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