Dan River Mills, Inc. v. Foshee

In Dan River Mills, Inc. v. Foshee, 365 So. 2d 1232 (Ala. Civ. App. 1979) the Court of Civil Appeals, affirming a trial court's finding that a plaintiff was suffering from byssinosis after having worked for Dan River, wrote: "The defendant first maintains that there was insufficient evidence presented at trial which establishes that plaintiff in fact has byssinosis. We do not agree inasmuch as our review of the record indicates there was conflicting testimony concerning the diagnosis of plaintiff's disease. "The record reveals that three medical experts examined plaintiff and testified as to their findings. All three were specialists in internal medicine and lung diseases. Each of the three had extensive experience in the treatment of occupational respiratory diseases. "Dr. Goodman, a practicing specialist in lung diseases and an associate professor in internal medicine at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, diagnosed plaintiff as having byssinosis. Dr. Goodman testified that byssinosis is caused by prolonged inhalation of ... cotton dust. At one point in the questioning, Dr. Goodman testified as follows: "'Q. ... Doctor, with your examination and review of Mr. Foshee's history with inhalation of cotton dust over a period of years, which caused him to cough, wheeze, have tightness of the chest and loss in breathing capacity, is this one of the symptoms of byssinosis? "'A. Yes, sir. "'Q. Can you diagnosis Mr. Foshee's ailment at this time as byssinosis? "'A. I have done so.' "[And later he testified]: "'Q. Doctor, with your findings of inhalation of cotton dust over a period of years, with the coughing, the wheezing, the tightness of the chest, what is your ultimate diagnosis of Mr. Foshee? "'A. That he has byssinosis.' "Notwithstanding this testimony, the defendant introduced conflicting evidence by way of two expert witnesses "Dr. Branscomb, head of the lung disease division of the University of Alabama Medical Center, testified that he diagnosed plaintiff's affliction as hypertension and bronchitis (possibly due to cigarette smoking), but not byssinosis. Dr. Branscomb stated that he had never heard of a case of byssinosis occurring in the weave room, that the bract and leaf material believed to cause byssinosis were in low concentration in that part of the mill, and the plaintiff's history of always having worked in that area was in no small measure responsible for the negative diagnosis. We note, however, that he could not be positive that plaintiff did not have byssinosis. At trial Dr. Branscomb stated: "'Q. Yes, sir. There is no way -medically ... that you can tell that this man does not have byssinosis, is it, Doctor Branscomb? "'A. There's no way that one can positively say that this person has not -yeh, I think that's right. I don't think you can positively say that he doesn't have byssinosis. "'Q. All right, sir.' "Defendant's second expert witness, Dr. Williams, is an expert in pulmonary disease and internal medicine at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. By way of deposition, Dr. Williams testified that he diagnosed the plaintiff as having bronchitis and emphysema but not byssinosis. Dr. Williams' diagnosis was predicated in part on the fact that he had elicited no history of the 'Monday Morning Syndrome' in his examination of plaintiff. Dr. Williams further premised his diagnosis on research which indicates that byssinosis occurs primarily in mill areas where cotton bract is more prevalent in the atmosphere. We note, however, that the doctor stated that more recent articles report the disease in weavers. "To this court, there is ample legal evidence to support the finding of the trial court that plaintiff has byssinosis. There was testimony, according to Dr. Goodman that plaintiff did in fact have byssinosis. In addition, the defendant's two expert witnesses admitted plaintiff could have byssinosis. Further, the plaintiff testified that he experienced extreme Monday morning discomfort and, as we noted above, this is the sole distinguishing factor that sets byssinosis apart from other similar diseases. Where, as here, in a workmen's compensation case, there is conflicting testimony, and some testimony supports the findings of the trial court, that finding is deemed conclusive. Southern Cotton Oil Co. v. Wynn, 266 Ala. 327, 96 So. 2d 159 (1957); Loggins v. Mallory Capacitor Co., Ala. Civ. App., 344 So. 2d 522 (1977). " (365 So. 2d at 1234-36.)