STRUCKMEYER, Vice Chief Justice.
This case involves the compensability of a disabling mental condition under Arizona's Workmen's Compensation Law. We granted review to settle the question of whether a disability brought on by strain and worry may be compensated as an injury by accident. Opinion of the Court of Appeals vacated. The award of the Industrial Commission affirmed.
Janice W. Craig, respondent employee, was employed by Drenberg and Associates, an insurance agency. She had approximately 15 years' experience when she started to work at the Drenberg Agency in August of 1974. She was initially assigned underwriting duties in the personal and commercial line of insurance. About the time respondent started to work, Drenberg began a year of explosive growth. Under normal conditions, an agency with 400,000 accounts could expect to acquire approximately 40,000 new accounts in the period of a year. Drenberg grew from 400,000 to 1,200,000 in just over one year. To keep pace with this growth, the agency's employees worked many extra hours, five and one-half day weeks. Yet, in spite of their best efforts, the agency remained thirty days behind in its accounts.
Respondent was a conscientious employee and a perfectionist. In addition to her duties in the area of the personal and commercial line of insurance, she took over a part of what is described as the commercial desk handling correspondence and renewals and changes. Her working conditions created an atmosphere in which respondent was under constant pressure.
On or about April 1, 1975, Drenberg purchased an agency from Earl Woodland, thereby acquiring 500 new accounts and an additional employee. Respondent was given supervisory responsibility for the new employee and the responsibility for merging the books of the two agencies. The additional responsibility and the mounting pressure began to affect respondent. She began to feel frustrated and ineffective. She
Respondent filed a claim with the Industrial Commission wherein she related facts which established that she was suffering from a disabling mental condition brought on by the gradual buildup of the stress and strain of her employment. The Industrial Commission found in part:
Respondent was awarded medical, hospital, and surgical expenses, in addition to compensation for temporary total and temporary partial disability. The only issue to be decided is whether a disabling injury which results from the gradual buildup of stress and tension is compensable as an injury by accident pursuant to A.R.S. § 23-901, et seq.
Petitioner urges that there must be an unexpected injury-causing event accompanied by physical impact or exertion before there is an accident with the meaning of § 23-1021(B).
Section 23-1021(B) provides in part:
Petitioner asserts two separate and distinct propositions; first, that the injury-causing event must be unexpected, and, second, that it must be traceable to exertion or physical impact. As to the first, it is to be acknowledged that generally it is held the cause of injury must be unexpected in order to qualify as an accident. However, in Paulley v. Industrial Commission, 91 Ariz. 266, 272, 371 P.2d 888, 893 (1962), we modified the strictness of this rule, saying:
Hence, by definition, an injury is caused by accident when the resulting injury is unexpected. While respondent's office duties were routine, the result of the delegation to her of excessive responsibilities resulted in the unexpected, her mental breakdown. We think that the respondent's disability was sufficiently unanticipated to be called "unexpected" and, hence, accidental within the meaning of § 23-1021(B).
In support of petitioners' second position, that a traceable exertion or physical impact must exist, petitioner cites these cases: Shope v. Industrial Commission, 17 Ariz.App. 23, 495 P.2d 148 (1972); Ayer v. Industrial Commission, 23 Ariz.App. 163, 531 P.2d 208 (1975); Muse v. Industrial Commission, 27 Ariz.App. 312, 554 P.2d 908 (1976); Verdugo v. Industrial Commission, 114 Ariz. 477, 561 P.2d 1249 (1977). We think, however, that a discussion of Shope, supra, will be dispositive of these cases and consequently we will specifically deal with it.
Shope was an automobile repairshop foreman who suffered an excessive psychoneurotic
The appeals court held that an excessive psychoneurotic anxiety reaction unaccompanied by physical force or exertion was not compensable where there is no evidence of an unexpected injury-causing event. The decision was reached without the benefit of prior Arizona case law and no authority was cited in support of the holding. Brock v. Industrial Commission, 15 Ariz.App. 95, 486 P.2d 207 (1971), was distinguished.
In Brock, petitioner's preexisting mental condition was aggravated after being informed by a policeman that he had, unwittingly, run over and killed a pedestrian while driving a City of Tempe water truck. The subsequent police investigation and Brock's failure to clear himself further aggravated his condition to the extent that it interfered with his ability to work and he was consequently discharged. The Court of Appeals addressed the issue of whether:
We think Brock represents the correct view. Physical impact or exertion is not a necessary element in determining whether an injury has, in fact, occurred. Thiel v. Industrial Commission, 1 Ariz.App. 445, 404 P.2d 711 (1965). See Baker v. Workmen's Compensation Appeals Board, 18 Cal.App.3d 852, 96 Cal.Rptr. 279 (1971), and 70 Yale L.J. 1129.
We think that Carter is more nearly analogous to Shope v. Industrial Commission, supra, and that it is unnecessary to go as far as did the Michigan court. We do not have here a claimant who was unable to keep up with other workers. Rather, there is here a claimant upon whom more and more work and responsibility was constantly being placed by her employer so that
GORDON, Justice (dissenting):
In addition to Mrs. Craig's difficulties at the office, the testimony at the hearing presented a picture of domestic disharmony. Respondent and her husband argued frequently, often concerning his drinking habits. She encountered difficulties in relating to her daughters, and her mother's death caused additional internal pressures. On the evening of September 25, 1975, the Craigs again argued, following which she took the overdose of medication. The psychiatrist who first evaluated Mrs. Craig upon her admission to Camelback Hospital testified, in part:
Although the Workmen's Compensation Act should be liberally construed to meet its intended purpose, we must not lose sight of the fact that the Act was not intended to be a general health and accident insurance substitute. See, e.g., Cavness v. Industrial Commission, 74 Ariz. 27, 243 P.2d 459 (1952). Without question, the majority announces a logical extension of the workmen's compensation case law represented by Paulley v. Industrial Commission, 91 Ariz. 266, 371 P.2d 888 (1962), and Brock v. Industrial Commission, 15 Ariz.App. 95, 486 P.2d 207 (1971). However, I believe this is a step which should be taken by the Legislature, rather than by further judicial modification of the terms "injured by accident arising out of and in the course of employment". A.R.S. § 23-1021(B).
Today's approval of the award for a mental condition brought about by the gradual build-up of emotional stress over a period of time, without an injury causing event, paves the way for tomorrow's abuses of the workmen's compensation system. In my opinion, the potential for mischief in this area is too great to abandon the concrete standard established by Shope v. Industrial Commission, 17 Ariz.App. 23, 495 P.2d 148 (1972) and followed in Verdugo v. Industrial Commission, 114 Ariz. 477, 561 P.2d 1249 (App. 1977); and Muse v. Industrial Commission, 27 Ariz.App. 312, 554 P.2d 908 (1976). Therefore, I would draw the line for compensation of mental "injuries" at Brock v. Industrial Commission, 15 Ariz.App. 95, 486 P.2d 207 (1971). Brock indeed represents the correct view that physical exertion or impact is not necessary, so long as there is a work-connected, unexpected, injury causing event. Absent this crucial element, I do not believe that this type of claim satisfies the language of A.R.S. § 23-1021(B).
I respectfully dissent.
HAYS, Justice (concurring):
I concur in the dissent.