South Carolina: Injured Crane Operator’s Confident Testimony that He Could Run a Restaurant Did Not Constitute Substantial Evidence That He Had Not Proved Wage Loss

Testimony by an injured crane operator that he was interested in opening a restaurant was too speculative to support the full commission’s finding that the crane operator had not proved a wage loss, where his physical impairment clearly prevented him from returning to his job and, according to a vocational specialist, where it was likely he would never earn more than minimum wage, held the Supreme Court of South Carolina recently in a divided decision [see Hutson v. South Carolina State Ports Auth., 2012 S.C. LEXIS 185 (Sept. 19, 2012)].

Pointing out that the commissioner had expressed doubt about the viability of the crane operator’s future restaurant plans, had indicated that the crane operator’s confidence ran contrary to the greater weight of the evidence in the record, and that without the crane operator’s expressions of confidence, the commissioner would have found the injured employee to be permanently and totally disabled under S.C. Code Ann. § 42–9–10, the majority said that to use such unsupported and wildly optimistic goals would turn the Act on its head and violate the stated policy behind it. Worse, the majority added, it would punish an employee for merely exploring the chance of overcoming an unanticipated injury by exploring other possible career options.

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