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Johnson County Regional Medical Center v. Lindsey

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

October 29, 2014



Friday, Eldredge & Clark, LLP, by: Guy Alton Wade and Phillip M. Brick, Jr., for appellants.

McKinnon Law Firm, by: Laura J. McKinnon and Kristopher A. Ramsfield, for appellee.

ROBIN F. WYNNE, Judge. GLADWIN, C.J., and PITTMAN, J., agree.


Page 648


Johnson County Regional Medical Center and Risk Management Resources appeal from a decision of the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission in which the Commission awarded Freddie Dean Lindsey additional medical benefits, additional temporary-total disability (TTD) benefits, and wage-loss disability benefits. Appellants argue that appellee's claim for wage-loss disability benefits is barred by statute. Alternatively, they argue that the award of wage loss by the Commission is not supported by substantial evidence. We affirm.

Appellee worked for Johnson County Regional Medical Center as a paramedic. He injured his back on May 20, 2007, as he

Page 649

was attempting to lift a large patient from her bed. An MRI revealed a right-sided disc herniation at L5-S1. He underwent a lumbar diskectomy at L5-S1 in July 2007 that was performed by Dr. Arthur Johnson. Appellee experienced an exacerbation of his pain following the procedure and was treated with epidural steroid injections. On May 14, 2008, Dr. Johnson stated in a letter that appellee had reached maximum-medical improvement (MMI) and assigned a physical impairment rating of ten percent to the body as a whole. Appellee underwent a functional capacity evaluation (FCE) in June 2008, which revealed that he could perform medium-duty work. Dr. Johnson returned appellee to work at medium duty. At the end of June 2008, the medical center offered appellee a position as a phlebotomist. The duties for that position required continuous standing and walking, lifting and carrying up to thirty pounds, and occasional pushing/pulling up to forty pounds. Appellee refused the position, claiming that he could not perform the duties necessary for the position. After that, the medical center made no further offers of employment to appellee, and appellee did not contact the medical center to inquire about any available positions.

In June 2008, appellee reported a significant increase in back pain while he was attempting to pick plums off a tree. An MRI performed in July 2008 revealed scarring at the site of appellee's surgery. On July 22, 2008, Dr. Johnson recommended that appellee undergo a discogram to determine whether appellee's pain was " diskogenic in nature." Appellee underwent the discogram in November 2008. Dr. D. Luke Knox reported in January 2009 that the discogram provided appellee with 100% relief and that appellee was prepared to go forward with fusion surgery. Dr. Knox performed the surgery on May 28, 2009. Appellee initially reported improvement following the surgery, but reported in January 2010 that some of his back and leg pain had redeveloped. Following another FCE in May 2010, Dr. Knox cleared appellee to a light classification of work. Dr. Knox also assessed a permanent-physical-impairment rating of fourteen percent to the body as a whole.[1] Due to ongoing issues with pain, Dr. Knox performed a removal of the hardware from the fusion surgery in July 2011.

Appellee underwent a vocational assessment in September 2011, performed by Heather Taylor, a vocational consultant. Based on the assessment, Ms. Taylor concluded that appellee would have options to pursue employment in light-duty positions in the medical field. Ms. Taylor's report states that light duty requires occasional lifting of eleven to twenty pounds, frequent lifting of one to twenty pounds, constant lifting of negligible weight, and frequent standing or walking. Her report included a list of potential jobs, including medical records clerk, medical assistant, medical billing, and medical coding.

The parties held a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) regarding appellee's entitlement to additional medical benefits, additional TTD benefits, and wage-loss disability benefits. Appellee testified that he was fifty-four years old, had a GED, and had completed the paramedic program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He worked as a paramedic from 1984 until he was injured on May 20, 2007. ...

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