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under the compensation act. The commission was attached to the department of agriculture and labor until 1931, when this was changed to the department of agriculture and commerce and the commission was placed under the newly created department of labor.
The commission is charged with the settlement of claims and the supervision of medical and hospital services for injured workers, regardless of the class of insurance, but collection and disbursement of moneys under the act are statutory duties of the treasurer of Porto Rico, while the fixing of premium rates and determining questions of coverage for employers are statutory duties of the superintendent of insurance of Porto Rico.
During 1930–31 there were 40,595 claims filed, of which 40,021 were for injuries occurring during the year; 20,593 cases were decided by the commission. The latter consisted of 55 fatal cases, 5 permanent total disability cases, 1,254 permanent partial disability cases, 17,965 temporary disability cases, and 1,314 cases in which the claim for compensation was denied.
An independent liquidating board was created in 1928 to adjust obligations contracted previously by the workmen's relief commission under the act, but in 1930 these duties were transferred to the industrial commission. The report states that from January 1, 1930, to June 30, 1931, the commission has discharged pending obligations amounting to $768,418, including discounts of $189,046, and that a total of $360,066 still remains unpaid. It is, however, believed that adjustments can be made, so that the liquidation can be finished with a sum of $250,000, whenever the money is available for that purpose.
The commission emphasizes that the problem of workmen's compensation in the island is a serious one and, summing up the situation, explains that the country is relatively poor, the average wages paid to laborers are low, the principal industry is agriculture, and most of the employers are of the small type. Consequently the pay roll on which compensation insurance premiums are assessed is not very large, and the volume of workmen's insurance business is limited to a little over $1,000,000. The State fund handles 50.9 per cent of this, and the private insurance companies 24.7 per cent, while the self-insurers cover 24.4 per cent. Against this volume of business it is found that 9,424 employers are insured in the State fund, 766 with private insurance companies, and 18 employers are self-insurers. The commission thinks it doubtful if the field of workmen's insurance in Porto Rico is broad enough to admit such competition, and believes the State fund is placed at a disadvantage. It is pointed out that the difficulty lies in the fact that the large employers are permitted self-insurance, and the private insurance companies select only the large, desirable risks, while the host of small employers with meager pay rolls are gathered into the State fund. The commission believes that the only solution, based on its experience of the past three years, is either to give the entire business to the insurance companies, under the control and supervision of the industrial commission, or to establish an exclusive State insurance fund.
California Court Holds Injury to Wooden Leg Is Not Com
pensable HE Supreme Court of California, on October 30, 1931, rendered
an opinion holding that the provision of the California workmen's compensation law allowing compensation for an injury to an artificial member was unconstitutional. (Pacific Indemnity Co. v. Industrial Accident Commission of California et al., 5 Pac. (2d) 1.)
Several months prior to the decision of the supreme court the Industrial Accident Commission of California handed down a decision in favor of one John Driscoll, who while working as a teamster lost his balance when the team he was driving shied and an artificial leg which he was wearing broke between the footboard and seat of the vehicle. Driscoll was otherwise uninjured but was unable to continue his work without an artificial leg, and he had no funds to purchase another one. The effect of the industrial commission's order was to compel the insurer either to buy a new artificial leg or to make indefinite weekly disability payments.
The decision of the industrial accident commission was at first upheld by the California Supreme Court by its refusal to review the decision upon appeal by the insurance carrier. Later, by a vote of four to three, the judges of the California Supreme Court reversed its original holding in the case and upon appeal ruled against the claim. The majority of the judges in the first instance considered, in view of their refusal to hear the case upon appeal, that the wooden leg should be mended or a new one purchased by the insurer. In the final appeal the four judges held that compensation could not be allowed for an injury to personal property and that there was no constitutional or other legal provision for such payment, and that a man's artificial leg is not a part of his natural living organic body. If any other position than this was taken the court would have to consider injuries to eyeglasses, false teeth, crutches, trusses, etc.
The appeal to the Supreme Court of California therefore challenged the constitutionality of that provision of the workmen's compensation law which permitted recovery for injury to artificial members.
Section 3, subdivision 4, of the California workmen's compensation act (Acts of 1917, ch. 586) was amended by chapter 471 in 1919 and reads as follows: "The term 'injury' as used in this act shall include any injury or disease arising out of employment, including injury to artificial members.” The main question presented to the high court of California for consideration was whether the commission had jurisdiction to make an award for an injury to an artificial limb of an employee. The only source of authority in the legislature to confer judicial power upon the industrial accident commission, the court said, was derived from section 21 of Article XX of the constitution as amended in 1918. The principal parts of this section are as follows:
The legislature is hereby expressly vested with plenary power create and enforce a complete system of workmen's compensation in that behalf to create and enforce a liability on the part of any or all persons to compensate any or all their workmen for injury or disability * incurred or sustained by said workmen.
Regarding the power of the legislature to confer such authority, the court said that,
It is plain from the above provision that the limitation of power under the act and its sole purpose is to compensate workmen for injury or disability incurred or sustained by them-not for injury sustained by their personal property. The words “injury or disability” are both used in the sense of injury to or disability of the person or natural body, that is, the living body of the workman (see City and County of San Francisco v. I. A. C., 183 Calif 273), due to sustaining or incurring industrial accident or disease. This is clearly indicated by the history of the legislation and authorities bearing upon the subject, an extended review of which is not essential here. An intent that power be granted to compensate workmen for injuries to their personal property is nowhere to be found.
The jurisdiction of the commission would be enlarged to an unwarranted extent, the court said, "if under the above provisions of the constitution power were conceded to compensate workmen under the act for injuries to or loss of such property.” So to widen the scope of
' the act would be a direct violation of said power conferred by the constitution.
While section 9 (a) of the compensation act imposes a liability upon the employer to provide such medical and surgical treatment, “including artificial members as may be reasonably required to cure and relieve from the effects of the injury," the court said that this is a different matter, for
It is one thing to furnish an artificial member in order to cure and relieve from the effects of an injury to a man's natural body and another thing to furnish an artificial member to replace an injured artificial member damaged beyond repair, no personal or bodily injury to the employee being involved. The former liability is proper (County of Los Angeles v. I. 8. C., 202 Calif. 439); the latter, for the reasons above set forth, can not be imposed under the present constitutional provisions.
Referring to the industrial commission's contention that the legislature is vested with plenary power to create and enforce a complete system of workmen's compensation, and the plea that to deny relief in this case would render the system of workmen's compensation incomplete, the court said:
The fact is, however, that the word “complete" as used in the provision in question, is fully defined as including only a complete system for compensating workmen for injury sustained by them (not by their property).
In conclusion the court said that
We believe that the above holding is in harmony with the prevailing rule on this subject. We know of no jurisdiction wherein provision is made to compensate workmen for injuries to artificial members. In the State of Colorado (London Guaranty, etc., v. Ind. Com., 249 Pac. 642), the issue was directly presented by an award to a claimant for accidental injury to his wooden leg. By the following brief but positive statements the court made quick disposition of the case: “Compensation can be awarded for personal injuries only which means injury to the person (citing numerous cases). A wooden leg is a man's property, not part of his person, and no compensation can be awarded for its injury.
It follows that in attempting to confer upon the commission authority to entertain this proceeding, said phrase of section 3, subdivision 4, to wit, including injuries to artificial members," is void as beyond the power of the legislature to enact it, although its unconstitutionality does not affect the validity of any of the remaining portions of the act; therefore, in so taking jurisdiction over an injury to an artificial member, the commission exceeded its judicial power as limited by the constitution, and its award in favor of said respondent must be and it is hereby annulled.
In the dissenting opinion three judges stated that it was the court's duty to accept a legislative enactment if it can be brought within a possible meaning of the constitution, but that it is no small matter for one branch of the Government to annul the formal exercise by another and coordinate branch of the power committed to the latter. By the provisions of the State constitution plenary power is given to create and enforce the workmen's compensation system fully and completely so as to cover both injury and disability, and for "other remedial treatment" to cure and relieve from the effects of the injury. That a wooden leg is, therefore, an essential part of the body, could be construed as applying to other remedial treatment, as specified in the workmen's compensation act.
Operation of Turpentine Business Held Not “Farming" Under
Georgia Compensation Law HE Court of Appeals of Georgia in a recent decision (Pridgen v.
Murphy, 160 S. E. 701) held that a person employed as a woods rider in the turpentine business was not a "farm laborer” as that term is generally used in the compensation law, and was therefore covered under the Georgia workmen's compensation act.
The court held that this was true even though the person engaged in such business is sometimes referred to as running a "turpentine farm” and the trees may be worked in groups described as “crops."
The facts in the case for which the cause of action arose show that an employee engaged as a woods rider in a turpentine business was injured while trying out or testing a horse which he was subsequently to use in the business. The Industrial Commission of Georgia made an award to the dependent of the deceased employee. Upon appeal to the State Superior Court of Colquitt County the award was set aside upon the grounds that a woods rider in a turpentine business was a "farm laborer," and therefore excluded from the Georgia compensation act. The State court of appeals, to which court an appeal was taken by the dependent widow, at first agreed with the findings of the lower court, but later a rehearing was granted and the court said that,
After continued and painstaking research and deliberation, we have now reached a contrary conclusion, and will hold that the decedent was not a farm laborer within the meaning of the statute. Many decisions and statutes have been examined, but this opinion will be limited to a discussion of the very few authorities that we deem to be directly in point.
A Florida case (Griffith v. Hulin, 107 So. 354) which provided for a lien "in favor of any person performing any labor in, or managing or overseeing, the cultivation or harvesting of crops” was cited as to be directly in point and authoritatively expressive of the principles involved. The court in that case held that,
The chipping, scoring, or streaking of pine trees, by which the bark is torn away and the fiber of the tree exposed, so as to induce the flow therefrom of the sap or crude turpentine, rather than being a process of cultivation, is a process destructive in its nature, however beneficial in its results to mankind the lesion thus produced on the tree may be. There is no tilling of the ground or fertilizing of the soil around the tree, but a destruction of a portion of the tree in order to obtain the annual flow of the valuable sap which nature has already produced in
The Georgia Appeals Court was of the opinion that the expression in the Florida case was one of authority, "since the turpentine business is perhaps more common in the State of Florida than in
any other part of the country.”
There was no reason, therefore, the court said, for disagreeing with that decision and it would therefore follow the reasoning in the case "as an authoritative expression as to the essential character of the turpentine business.” The court said:
In principle, the Griffith case answers in the negative the question of whether a person employed as a woods rider in a turpentine business is a “farm laborer' within the meaning of this language as used in the compensation act.
The court also referred to two Federal court cases (United States v. Waters-Pierce Oil Co. (C. C. A.), 196 Fed. 767, and Union Naval Stores Co. v. United States, 240 U. S. 284), which have held that the turpentine business is not "agriculture."
The judgment of the lower court was therefore reversed.
Economic Conditions can not Change Employee's Compensation
N EMPLOYEE, receiving compensation for partial disability,
who ceased work when the plant shut down, and on account of economic conditions was unable to find other work, could not, according to the Georgia Court of Appeals, recover compensation for "total incapacity.” (General Accident Fire & Life Assurance Corp. et al. v. McDaniel, 160 S. E. 554.)
The facts in the case show that the employee had a hernia and underwent an operation for its cure. Before he was able to return to work the hernia recurred and a second operation was not advised. He was awarded compensation for temporary total disability, and later when he secured selected employment for himself the award was changed to compensation for partial disability. He continued in this employment until April, 1930, when the plant shut down, and since that date has been unable to find work suitable to his impaired physical condition. He therefore applied for an increase in compensation due to a change in conditions and the industrial commission allowed compensation for temporary total incapacity. The Superior Court, Chatham County, Ga., affirmed the award, but upon appeal to the Court of Appeals of Georgia the decision was reversed, “there being no finding of fact by the commission that the claimant was unable to do any work, or that he was unable, by reason of his injury, to resume his former occupation, or that he was unable, by reason of his injury, to procure remunerative employment at a different occupation suitable to his impaired physical condition.” In denying a motion for rehearing, the court said:
The fact that an employee may be partially disabled, and thereafter is able to find and does find remunerative employment suitable to his impaired physical condition, which he continues to perform until the work itself is shut down, for reasons in nowise connected with his previous injury, and that on account of economic or other conditions he is unable to find other work suitable to his impaired physical condition, does not authorize a finding that the original injury rendered him totally incapacitated to perform physical labor.
* The injured employee, after successfully working at other and different employment suitable to his impaired physical condition, became idle on