Must prove work caused nervous breakdown for benefits

TRUMAN STANLEY MCELVEEN worked for 33 years for Croft Metals Inc., a Mississippi company, until Feb. 12, 1999, when he became disabled by a nervous breakdown. At the time of his breakdown, McElveen was an area superintendent overseeing five production lines with 135 workers. As superintendent, McElveen oversaw production of metal frame window assemblies the company produced.

Although McElveen had a history of anxiety, he contended that his breakdown was caused by the culmination of hours worked and pressure from his supervisors. He said that in the nine weeks preceding his breakdown, he was required to work seven days a week - 70 hours to 80 hours per week. McElveen sought workers' compensation benefits from Croft, but Croft refused, saying his breakdown was not caused by his job.

McElveen sued. At an administrative-law hearing, Croft called witnesses who testified that employees worked a lot of overtime in late 1998, but that production slowed considerably in early 1999. Two of McElveen's lead persons testified that they had not worked Sundays in January or February 1999.

McElveen's psychiatrist testified that McElveen had bi-polar disorder, and that the work schedule aggravated McElveen's condition, causing the breakdown. The doctor acknowledged that if the history provided by McElveen was not accurate, he would be less confident in his opinion on the causal relationship.

A psychiatrist who examined McElveen on behalf of Croft, agreed that McElveen had bi-polar disorder and said the disorder could cause people to amplify stress. He also said if McElveen was not working the excessive hours, the breakdown was not related to work.

The administrative-law judge ruled for Croft, concluding that McElveen's testimony about his excessive hours at work prior to his breakdown were not corroborated and was contradicted by coworkers. The judge noted the psychiatrists' testimony that McElveen's condition was not caused by his work at Croft.

McElveen appealed to the Mississippi Court of Appeals, and the appellate court said evidence was lacking that McElveen's breakdown was caused by his work schedule, so he was not entitled to workers' compensation benefits.

McElveen v. Croft Metals Inc. 915 So.2d 14 (Miss.App. 2005), Court of Appeals of Mississippi, July 26, 2005.
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