Appeal from Superior Court of Grant County. Docket No: 95-2-00119-6. Date filed: 12/22/95. Judge signing: Hon. Evan E. Sperline.
The Publication status of this Document has been Changed by the Court from Unpublished to Published February 25, 1997. As Amended February 25, 1997.
Authored by Ray E. Munson. Concurring: Dennis J. Sweeney, Philip J. Thompson.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Munson
MUNSON, J. Lynn M. Jenkins appeals a jury verdict affirming the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals' order finding that she did not sustain an injury while in the course of her employment. She contends that the trial court erred by including in the jury instructions a verbatim recitation of the Board's findings of fact and Conclusions of law because certain findings of fact were immaterial and highly prejudicial. We affirm.
Ms. Jenkins filed an application for benefits with the Department on September 24, 1993, alleging that she injured her lower back in the course of her employment at Columbia Basin Hospital on or about August 10, 1993. The Department initially allowed her claim, but on November 17, 1993, issued an order denying her claim because "there was no proof of a specific injury at a definite time and place, that the condition was not the result of the injury alleged or of an industrial injury or occupational disease and that the condition pre-existed the injury and was not related to it." Ms. Jenkins appealed the November 17 order to the Board. After a hearing before the Board, the industrial appeals Judge issued a "Proposed Decision and Order" finding that Ms. Jenkins did not sustain an industrial injury in the course of her employment and therefore affirmed the Department's order denying her claim.
In support of the Board's proposed decision and order, it made certain findings of fact based on the evidence in the record. The findings that are at issue in this case described Ms. Jenkins' consultations with three different doctors and her failure to tell any of them that she thought her lower back injury occurred while at work. Ms. Jenkins then filed a petition for review of the Board's proposed decision and order which was denied. On February 1, 1995, the Board adopted the findings in the proposed decision and order as the final order of the Board. Ms. Jenkins appealed the Board's proposed final order to the Grant County Superior Court on February 14, 1995. A jury trial was held and the trial court's instructions to the jury included a verbatim recitation of the findings of fact and Conclusions of law set forth in the Board's final order. The jury then returned a verdict finding that Ms. Jenkins did not sustain an injury while in the course of her employment at Columbia Basin Hospital on or about August 10, 1993. Ms. Jenkins now appeals that verdict.
Ms. Jenkins contends that the trial court erred by including in the jury instructions a verbatim recitation of the Board's findings of fact and Conclusions of law. In particular, she challenges the following findings of fact:
2. On August 11, 1993, Lynn M. Jenkins consulted with Robert Ross, D.C., whom she had seen on approximately 43 occasions between November 1983 to June 1985 and May 1993 to August 1993 and for whom she had worked between about 1984 and 1985. Ms. Jenkins did not describe to Dr. Ross on that date any injury which she had sustained in the course of her employment as a housekeeper at Columbia Basin Hospital on or about August 10, 1993.
3. On August 15, 1993, Lynn M. Jenkins consulted with emergency room physician Harvey R. Fritz for her low back, left hip and left leg discomfort, but did not describe to him any injury in the course of her work as a housekeeper at Columbia Basin Hospital on or about August 10, 1993.
4. On August 20, 1993, Lynn M. Jenkins consulted with family practitioner William B. Kirkham for low back pain with pain into the left buttock and leg, but did not describe to Dr. Kirkham on that date any injury which she had sustained in the course of her employment as a housekeeper at Columbia Basin Hospital on or about August 10, 1993.
Specifically, Ms. Jenkins contends these findings were not material to the issue of whether she actually injured her back during the course of her employment and called into question her veracity because they were contrary to her testimony. Accordingly, she argues these findings should not have been presented to the jury.
The superior court reviews the Board's record and decision and order de novo. RCW 51.52.115; Stratton v. Department of Labor & Indus., 1 Wash. App. 77, 79-80, 459 P.2d 651 (1969). In all court proceedings under this title, "the findings and decision of the board shall be prima facie correct and the burden of proof shall be upon the party attacking the same." RCW 51.52.115. Further, "where the court submits a case to the jury, the court shall by instruction advise the jury of exact findings of the board on each material issue before the court." RCW 51.52.115; Stratton, 1 Wash. App. at 80. The appellate court's review is "limited to examination of the record to see whether substantial evidence supports the findings made after the superior court's de novo review, and whether the court's Conclusions of law flow from the findings." Young v. Department of Labor & Indus., 81 Wash. App. 123, 128, 913 P.2d 402 (citations omitted), review denied, 130 Wash. 2d 1009 (1996).
The key issue is whether the findings involving Ms. Jenkins' failure to inform three doctors of how she sustained her injury involved a material issue. Only findings of ultimate facts should be permitted, not evidentiary or argumentative findings. Gaines v. Department of Labor & Indus., 1 Wash. App. 547, 551-52, 463 P.2d 269 (1969). Examples of findings of ultimate facts include:
a finding on the identity of the claimant and his employer, the claimant's status as an employee or dependent under the act, the nature of the accident, the nature of the injury or occupational disease, the nature and extent of disability, the causal relationship between the injury or the disease and the disability, and other ultimate facts upon the existence or nonexistence of which the outcome of the litigation depends. The dividing ...