This action results from a myocardial infarction
This case presents two issues. The first is whether the Workers' Compensation Appellate Commission used the correct standard of review as set forth in MCL 418.861a(3); MSA 17.237(861a)(3). The second is whether the WCAC and the Court of Appeals used the proper legal standard to determine whether plaintiff's heart injury was compensable under the Workers' Disability Compensation Act.
We hold that the WCAC applied the appropriate statutory standard of review, but utilized an improper legal standard to determine injury compensability. Nevertheless, applying the law to these facts, we affirm the Court of Appeals benefits award decision.
Plaintiff began working for defendant in 1973. At the time of his injury, he was employed as a manager at defendant's self-service gas station. His duties included overseeing employee scheduling, payroll, maintenance of the premises, inventory control, stocking shelves and occasionally shoveling snow in those areas where the station's plow could not reach. On February 25, 1986, at about 6:15 A.M., plaintiff began to perspire and experience chest pains, dizziness, and shortness of breath, while carrying ten to fifteen cases of soda to refill the station's soda coolers. The cases weighed approximately thirty pounds. Plaintiff rested until the chest pains stopped, about thirty to forty minutes after their onset, but he continued to have discomfort in his chest for the remainder of the day. Plaintiff left work and went home an hour early at approximately 12:30 or 1:00 P.M.
The next day at work, February 27, 1986, at approximately 6:00 A.M., plaintiff again experienced severe chest pain while loading soda into the coolers. He attempted to relax, but the pain did not subside. He subsequently left work at approximately 9:00 or 9:30 A.M. and was examined by a doctor, who immediately admitted him to a hospital. There, he was treated by Dr. Zegerius, a specialist in cardiology.
Plaintiff's reoccurring chest pain and the questionable changes in his electrocardiogram initially led Dr. Zegerius to conclude that he suffered from an acute anteroseptal or posterior myocardial infarction at the time of admission. Although plaintiff's initial blood enzyme tests did not reveal damage to the heart at that time, he continued to experience chest pain. Dr. Zegerius diagnosed plaintiff as having unstable angina and admitted him for further cardiac evaluation. Doctors eventually stabilized plaintiff's heart condition with oxygen and nitroglycerin treatments.
On February 28, 1986, plaintiff performed a routine treadmill test, but could not endure the machine for more than two minutes because he felt his chest becoming "tight." On March 1, 1986, plaintiff took a sponge bath at about 9:00 A.M. and became so tired that he returned to bed. At approximately 10:00 A.M., he again complained of intense chest pain, and an EKG test showed that on this particular occasion he had suffered a myocardial
Plaintiff petitioned for workers' compensation on September 19, 1986. He alleged his disability extended from February 27, 1986, until April 21, 1986. The record before Magistrate Schroder revealed that the forty-nine year old plaintiff had a preexisting coronary heart disease, but no previous history of cardiac problems. Dr. Zegerius noted in the record that plaintiff was mildly obese, but he considered plaintiff's weight a minor factor in triggering his heart injury.
Dr. Sentkeresty, the defendant's medical expert, examined plaintiff on March 9, 1987, approximately one year after plaintiff's myocardial infarction. The doctor noted that plaintiff had quit smoking about twenty years ago. Plaintiff began smoking at the age of seventeen and, at his peak, smoked eight to ten cigarettes per day. He rarely used alcoholic beverages. Although plaintiff's father had hypertension, there was no other history of common familial disorders. Plaintiff told Dr. Sentkeresty that he had had a low elevation of his blood pressure, but once he lost weight it had improved one or two years ago. During the exam performed by Dr. Sentkeresty, a test revealed that his blood pressure was in fact slightly elevated. His cholesterol count was also high but not abnormal. Dr. Sentkeresty noted that plaintiff had scarlet fever at age six and rheumatic fever in 1957, however, these were not believed to be risk factors for his myocardial infarction.
With regard to his job, plaintiff told Dr. Zegerius
In testifying before Magistrate Schroder, Dr. Zegerius opined that plaintiff's work activities were a significant cause of his unstable angina at the time of admission to the hospital and of his subsequent myocardial infarction two days later. Dr. Sentkeresty disputed the causal connection between plaintiff's exertion at work and his myocardial infarction. On December 12, 1987, the magistrate awarded plaintiff benefits for the claimed period of disability.
The parties subsequently filed briefs on appeal to the WCAC in March and April of 1988, and the WCAC issued its decision in October of 1988. The commission employed the "substantial evidence" standard of review set forth in MCL 418.861a(3); MSA 17.237(861a)(3) to affirm the magistrate's decision and to conclude that there was ample support for his findings. The WCAC dissent opinion agreed that the magistrate's finding was supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence on the whole record, but argued that the correct standard of review required that the magistrate's findings be supported by a preponderance of the evidence. The dissent contended that the plaintiff failed to prove that his myocardial infarction was work related under the preponderance standard.
The Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the WCAC majority opinion. 189 Mich.App. 298; 472 N.W.2d 60 (1991). This Court granted defendant's motion for leave to appeal, and the Michigan Self-Insurers'
II. APPROPRIATE STANDARD OF APPELLATE REVIEW
The first issue before this Court is whether the WCAC applied the correct standard of appellate review when it used the "substantial evidence" test as set forth in MCL 418.861a; MSA 17.237(861a).
The Legislature added § 861a to the WDCA as part of 1985 PA 103, effective July 30, 1985. It provides in pertinent part:
Because the WCAC reviewed plaintiff's claim after October 1, 1986, we hold that the substantial evidence test as set forth in § 861a(3) was the appropriate standard.
The plain meaning of § 861a is unambiguous. As this Court has held, where the language of a statute is clear, there is no need for interpretation; it must be applied as written. Owendale-Gagetown
The legislative intent is discoverable by a complete reading of § 861a. It is a well-established rule of statutory construction that provisions of a statute must be construed in light of the other provisions of the statute to carry out the apparent purpose of the Legislature. Dagenhardt v Special Machine & Engineering, Inc, 418 Mich. 520; 345 N.W.2d 164 (1984); Workman v DAIIE, 404 Mich. 477, 507; 274 N.W.2d 373 (1979). A careful review of § 861a reveals that subsection 1 begins by setting the bounds of the commission's jurisdiction. As stated, the WCAC has the power to hear and decide only those matters in which a claim of review has been filed. Subsections 2 and 3 further define the scope of the appellate commission's jurisdiction by advancing the applicable standard of review for findings of facts made by a magistrate. In the instant case, the magistrate made his decision on December 12, 1987, well after the October 1, 1986 cutoff.
The Legislature did not adopt any language that would indicate that the standards of review set forth in subsections 2 and 3 were dependent upon when the claim was initially filed. Absent an express statement of limitation by the Legislature, it would be improper for this Court to impose such
Moreover, the legislative history, evidenced by previous drafts of the amendments, also contains no indication that the Legislature intended that the original filing date be the decisive factor in determining the standard of review. Section 861a was enacted as part of 1985 PA 103, which contains several amendments of the WDCA. This public act restructured the administration procedure for adjudicating contested workers' compensation
The nature of the new structural changes adopted by the Legislature in 1985 to reform the workers' compensation appeals procedure provide further insight into the appropriate standard of review after October 1, 1986. The new system implemented by the amendments was supposed to phase in the legislative plan for reform on a scheduled basis. As evidenced by the statutes themselves, the Legislature sought to create a functional appellate commission by January 1, 1986,
This new structure and the substantial evidence review standard were enacted to fulfill the legislative purpose at the time. As Michigan courts have held, a fundamental rule of statutory construction is to ascertain the purpose and intent of the Legislature in enacting a provision. In re Certified Question, 433 Mich. 710, 722; 449 N.W.2d 660 (1989). In this case, the WCAB'S de novo review standard under the pre-1985 amendment compensation system was eliminated to decrease the endless backlog of appeals by giving greater deference to the magistrates' findings, and to discourage the filing
A construction of subsections 861a(2) and (3) to permit application of the substantial evidence standard only in those cases in which the initial application for hearing was filed after October 1, 1986, would run contrary to the legislative purpose of unclogging the docket of the outgoing WCAB. Rather than allowing the appellate commission to begin serving its intended purpose under the new 1985 amendments, which would permit the WCAC to begin controlling its own docket, the defendant argues that the Legislature intended all claims first filed in the new system from March 31, 1986, until October 1, 1986, be subject to the stricter preponderance of the evidence standard. This result is contrary to the legislative intent because this interpretation would prolong the backlog that the amendments were intended to address.
The Legislature's clear purpose was that all claims reviewed by the WCAC after October 1, 1986, be reviewed by the substantial evidence test to effect the changes implemented by the 1985 amendments. There is nothing in the WDCA amendments that indicates that the group of cases
III. APPROPRIATE LEGAL STANDARD
We now turn to whether the WCAC and the Court of Appeals used the proper legal standard to determine whether plaintiff's heart injury was compensable under the WDCA.
In Kostamo v Marquette Iron Mining Co, 405 Mich. 105, 116; 274 N.W.2d 411 (1979), this Court held:
In Kostamo, this Court advanced an alternate two-pronged standard to determine compensability under the WDCA. An employee with an ordinary disease or preexisting condition was entitled to workers' compensation, if it could be shown either that (1) the work accelerated or aggravated the disease or condition, and thus contributed to it, or (2) the work, coupled with the disease, in fact caused the injury.
In 1982, after Kostamo, the Legislature amended
By placing the "significant manner" amendment in both §§ 401(2)(b) and 301(2) of the WDCA, the Legislature intended to apply the standard to claims invoking either chapter. Consequently, both prongs of Kostamo were also effected. Plaintiff was awarded compensation for disability resulting from a heart injury (Kostamo's second prong). A heart injury is a "heart condition" within the meaning of the terms "conditions of the aging process, including but not limited to heart and cardiovascular conditions ...." (Emphasis added.)
Plaintiff argues and the Court of Appeals held that the significant manner amendments apply only to claims under Kostamo's first prong. Plaintiff contends that because the Legislature adopted the amendment language from the first prong of the Kostamo standard,
Thus, the legislative policy evidenced for heart disease after the 1982 amendments would restrict benefits to claimants under the second prong of Kostamo, as in the instant case, who could establish that their heart disease and injury were significantly caused or aggravated by employment. Included in this standard is the requirement that claimants also prove that the alleged cardiac injury resulting from work activities went beyond the manifestation of symptoms of the underlying disease. The heart injury must be significantly
In the case at bar, the Court of Appeals and WCAC erred when they misstated the applicable legal standard subsequent to the 1982 legislative amendments. The panel noted that "because benefits were awarded pursuant to the second prong in Kostamo, we conclude that the WCAC properly determined that it was not required to employ the `significant manner' language of § 401(2)(b). Rather, it was only necessary to determine whether plaintiff's heart damage was linked to his employment." 189 Mich.App. 307-308. Miklik v Michigan Special Machine Co, 415 Mich. 364; 329 N.W.2d 713 (1982). The Miklik Court ruled that "work need not be the sole cause of the damage; it is sufficient if the employment is a cause." Id. at 370. (Emphasis in the original.) The opinion was based upon the premise that before 1982 a plaintiff need only show a mere causal relationship between heart injury and employment. As the Court stated, "heart damage, such as would result from a heart attack, is compensable if linked by sufficient evidence to the workplace." Id. at 368. This is clearly a lower standard than the significant manner amendment adopted by the Legislature in 1982. Our Miklik decision did, however, recognize that the standard for finding a causal relationship changed after the amendments. We emphasized that our decision was based "solely on the statutory
IV. PLAINTIFF'S CAUSAL CONNECTION
As we stated in Holden v Ford Motor Co, supra, on judicial appellate review, our analysis is limited to the issue whether the WCAC's findings are consistent with the concept of administrative appellate review that is less than de novo review in determining whether the magistrate's decision was supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence on the whole record. Id. at 267.
After conducting a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the evidence, as required by statute, the WCAC adopted the magistrate's findings. Citing the clear and unambiguous testimony of Dr. Zegerius and the argumentative and inconsistent testimony of defendant's medical expert, the WCAC found ample support for the magistrate's decision.
Plaintiff argues that even under the significant manner standard, he is entitled to recovery. We agree. We believe that the evidence supports the conclusion reached by the magistrate even when analyzed under the new standard. After examining the plaintiff one year after the injury, Dr. Sentkeresty, defendant's medical expert, disputed the causal connection between plaintiff's work and his cardiac injury. He testified:
Moreover, Dr. Sentkeresty testified that although exertion could bring about angina, he unequivocally disagreed that exertion could in fact precipitate a myocardial infarction:
Despite Dr. Sentkeresty's assertions, he did concede that the purpose of admitting plaintiff would have been to fend off an impending myocardial infarction. The magistrate found this testimony argumentative and inconsistent. Dr. Sentkeresty's findings were rejected in favor of those of Dr. Zegerius, who concluded that specific work events contributed to plaintiff's eventual myocardial infarction.
Despite conflict in the medical testimony and literature regarding the existence of precipitating causes of myocardial infarctions, this Court has recognized that work-related stress, at times, can precipitate cardiac injury.
The fact that plaintiff's myocardial infarction in the instant case occurred away from the work place and two days after the last strenuous work-related activity did not conclude the magistrate's analysis. After the heart injury had been documented, the magistrate found it necessary to retrace those events and specific circumstances that could have conceivably led to the claimant's myocardial infarction.
As the Kostamo Court suggested, in addition to medical testimony, other "potentially significant factors in the causal equation"
As the record in the instant case indicates, the magistrate's analysis included a number of these causal elements. The plaintiff's lay testimony demonstrates a temporal proximity between the cardiac episodes and the work experience. As the record indicates, plaintiff experienced intense chest pain on February 25, 1986, while moving cases of soda. The same symptoms returned the following day while shoveling snow, and again, on February 27, 1986, while reloading soda into the coolers. On each of these occasions, plaintiff's chest pain was accompanied by nausea, perspiration, and dizziness. The physical stress to which plaintiff was subjected constituted the most strenuous part of his managerial duties, most of which were sedentary in nature. Despite these cardiac episodes, his position required him to repeatedly return to work after each occurrence. His exertion eventually caused his hospitalization and, according to his treating physician, his myocardial infarction two days later on the morning of March 1, 1986. Physical examinations by both testifying physicians did not reveal any significant nonoccupational or health factor that would have precipitated the instant heart injury.
The magistrate never specified whether he was imposing the significant manner test. However, on the basis of this testimony, the magistrate was "led to the inescapable conclusion that Plaintiff's heart attack and `premonitory symptoms' were solely the result of his work activity." The magistrate emphasized that "[t]he facts presented in this case present the strongest possible scenario of work relationship cardiac disability...." The record supports the magistrate's conclusion.
Considering the increased knowledge regarding
Dr. Zegerius further opined that, in the instant case, plaintiff's "unstable angina was precipitated by heavy exertion at work and that this was a major contributing factor to his unstable angina syndrome, and eventual myocardial infarction." Recent medical research examined here support Dr. Zegerius' testimony.
Therefore, applying the correct legal standard to the magistrate's findings of fact, which are supported by the evidence, it is clear that plaintiff met his burden of proof under the "significant manner" test and is entitled to benefits. Although we reverse the Court of Appeals insomuch as it applied the wrong legal standard, we affirm the award of benefits.
CAVANAGH, C.J., and LEVIN and BOYLE, JJ., concurred with MALLETT, J.
RILEY, J. (dissenting in part).
While I agree with the majority regarding the issues resolved in parts I to III and join those holdings, because the majority inappropriately utilizes findings determined under an incorrect legal standard, I respectfully dissent from the Court's holding in part IV.
As recognized by the majority, in 1982 the Legislature amended the WDCA to require that a claimant who has suffered injury from heart or cardiovascular conditions establish that employment contributed to or aggravated or accelerated the injury
The amendments at issue were but a component of a broad reformation of the WDCA, which was motivated by a crippled economic environment and a perceived need to reduce the burden and costs imposed upon free enterprise by the then-existing WDCA.
In fact, as recognized by the majority, the amendments at issue were specifically designed to replace the liberal standard of recovery for cardiovascular injuries established in Kostamo v Marquette Iron Mining Co, 405 Mich. 105, 116; 274 N.W.2d 411 (1979). The legislative intent was undoubtedly to protect employers from unfairly paying compensation to workers suffering heart injuries not significantly caused by employment. The specific legislative history reveals that the Legislature believed that the unamended statute did "not prescribe definite standards as to what constitutes compensable heart or mental disabilities." Workers' Compensation Reform Task Force, Report of the Special Committee to Study Workers' Compensation, December, 1980, Issue No. 2c. Hence, proponents of the bill maintained "that the lack of such standards has led to reckless judicial interpretation of the disability standard as it applies to heart and mental cases resulting in compensation being paid to workers whose disability was not work related." Id. A copy of Kostamo, supra, was even attached to the task force report discussing the issue. Id. The Legislature, therefore, amended the WDCA to prohibit compensation for "heart and cardiovascular conditions" unless they were "contributed to or aggravated or accelerated by the employment in a significant manner." MCL
In sum, to determine whether the employment contributed to or aggravated cardiovascular injury, the factfinder should consider both the importance of any work incident and the totality of the claimant's health and other nonoccupational factors. Unless the magistrate determines that employment was a significant aggravating factor in the totality of circumstances, no recovery is permitted.
In any event, all the triers of fact below ignored the Legislature's mandate and granted benefits by relying on an erroneous liberal standard of recovery. Hence, the trier of fact did not appropriately examine the surrounding circumstances to determine if the injury in question was significantly aggravated by plaintiff's employment. Because the findings of fact were premised on an incorrect legal standard, they are inherently suspect. Nevertheless, the majority accepts those findings as conclusive in the instant case. Therefore, I write separately because I believe that reliance on those findings is unwise and contradicts the clear intent of the Legislature to subject such fact finding to a higher degree of scrutiny. Indeed, the Court's utilization of the conclusions below deprives those presumed finders of fact their adjudicative role because they never possessed the opportunity to examine the facts in light of the correct legal standard. Moreover, the majority's reliance upon scientific authorities denigrates the role of the
BRICKLEY and GRIFFIN, JJ., concurred with RILEY, J.
Senator Guastello echoed his colleague's premonitions just before introduction of the reform bill:
See also 1980 Journal of the Senate 1310 (Senator DeMaso).