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Willis v. Great Dane Trailers

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

October 8, 2014

GEORGE WILLIS, APPELLANT
v.
GREAT DANE TRAILERS and AMERICAN ZURICH INSURANCE COMPANY, APPELLEES

APPEAL FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION. NO. G207137.

Orr Willhite PLC, by: M. Scott Willhite, for appellant.

Friday, Eldredge & Clark, by: Guy Alton Wade and Travis J. Fowler, for appellees.

KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge. PITTMAN and WALMSLEY, JJ., agree.

OPINION

Page 424

KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge

Appellant George Willis brought a workers' compensation claim against appellee Great Dane Trailers, alleging that he sustained a compensable aggravation injury to his left knee while working for the appellee on August 9, 2012. The Workers' Compensation Commission denied compensability, finding that Mr. Willis failed to prove an aggravation of a preexisting condition, and also failed to support his claim with new objective medical findings. Mr. Willis now appeals from the Commission's decision, arguing that the Commission's decision denying compensability was not supported by substantial evidence. We affirm.

A claimant has the burden of proving the compensability of his claim by a preponderance of the evidence. Ayers v. City of Ashdown, 2014 Ark.App. 270. To prove the occurrence of a specific-incident compensable injury, the claimant must establish by a preponderance of the evidence (1) that an injury occurred arising out of and in the scope of employment; (2) that the injury caused internal or external harm to the body which required medical services or resulted in disability or death; (3) that the injury is established by medical evidence supported by objective findings; and (4) that the injury was caused by a specific incident and is identifiable by time and

Page 425

place of occurrence. Ark. Code Ann. § 11-9-102(4)(A)(i) (Repl. 2012); Pafford Med. Billing Servs., Inc. v. Smith, 2011 Ark.App. 180, 381 S.W.3d 921. For purposes of workers' compensation law, an employer takes the employee as it finds him, and an aggravation of a preexisting noncompensable condition by a compensable injury is, itself, compensable. Jackson v. O'Reilly Auto., Inc., 2013 Ark.App. 755.

When the Commission denies benefits because the claimant has failed to meet his burden of proof, the substantial-evidence standard of review requires that we affirm if the Commission's decision displays a substantial basis for the denial of relief. Frances v. Gaylord Container Corp., 341 Ark. 527, 20 S.W.3d 280 (2000). We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commission's decision, which will be affirmed when it is supported by substantial evidence. Parker v. Comcast Cable Corp., 100 Ark.App. 400, 269 S.W.3d 391 (2007). The issue is not whether the appellate court might have reached a different result from the Commission, but whether reasonable minds could reach the result found by the Commission; if so, the appellate court must affirm. Id. We defer to the Commission's findings of credibility and the resolution of conflicting evidence. Welcher v. Davis Nursing Home, 2009 Ark.App. 831.

Mr. Willis began working for Great Dane Trailers on July 30, 2012, and it is undisputed that Mr. Willis had a preexisting left-knee condition at the time he was hired. Mr. Willis's duties consisted of tire and rim assembly, and he testified that he sustained an injury while performing his job on August 9, 2012. On that day Mr. Willis was working near Jimmy Grooms, and Mr. Grooms allegedly lost control of a semi-tractor tire weighing 150 pounds and, according to Mr. Willis, the tire slammed into his left leg and pinned him against another tire. Mr. Willis testified that he could not get up and that Mr. Grooms pulled the tire off of him.

Later that day Mr. Willis filed an accident report, and he testified that he visited a doctor who gave him crutches and prescribed therapy. According to Mr. Willis, the injury caused excruciating pain and symptoms that he did not have before, and it rendered him unable to work. Another employee, Robert Whitson, testified that immediately after the accident he saw the tire pressed up against Mr. Willis's leg, and that a few minutes later Mr. Willis said his leg was hurting and showed Mr. Whitson where it was swollen. Approximately four months later, Mr. Willis underwent arthroscopic knee surgery performed by Dr. Brian Dickson on December 17, 2012, to repair a medial-meniscus tear in his left knee.

Mr. Grooms gave a different version of the events of August 9, 2012. Mr. Grooms testified that the tire only brushed the back of Mr. Willis's leg, and that Mr. Willis " kind of moved forward a little bit or slid." Mr. Grooms stated that the tire did not pin Mr. Willis against another tire or cause him to buckle or fall, and that after the incident Mr. Willis said that he was fine and that it was " no big deal." Mr. Willis continued working that ...


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