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Nabholz Construction Corp. v. White

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

February 18, 2015

NABHOLZ CONSTRUCTION CORPORATION and ST. PAUL TRAVELERS INSURANCE COMPANY APPELLANTS
v.
BRADLEY WHITE and DEATH AND PERMANENT DISABILITY TRUST FUND APPELLEES

APPEAL FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO. E609910]

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

Stanley Law Firm, P.A., by: James W. Stanley, for appellees.

BRANDON J. HARRISON, JUDGE

Nabholz Construction Corporation and St. Paul Travelers Insurance Company (collectively referred to as "Nabholz") appeal the Workers' Compensation Commission's decision to award Bradley White additional-medical benefits. Nabholz argues that (1) the Commission erred in holding that the statute of limitations did not bar White's claim for additional benefits, and (2) no substantial evidence exists to support an award of additional-medical benefits. We affirm the Commission's decision.

I. Facts

In 1996, nineteen-year-old Bradley White fell thirty-five feet from a building on a Nabholz Construction worksite. White sustained low back and ankle injuries. Nabholz accepted these injuries as compensable and paid medical, indemnity, and permanent anatomical-impairment benefits to White. In 1998, White filed an AR-C Form with the Workers' Compensation Commission. He checked every box on the form-including boxes for initial and additional benefits. Nabholz filed a closing report, an AR-4 Form, with the Commission in October 2000 and considered the case closed. In September 2004, White was in a significant car accident, an event that will be discussed in due course. From 2002 until 2007, Nabholz made no benefit payments. In 2006, White requested a hearing on permanent-partial disability, "further medical treatment, " and a change of physician; in 2007, the Commission issued an opinion.

The Commission's 2007 opinion affirmed and adopted the ALJ's findings that, in 1998, White had filed his AR-C Form and therefore made a claim for additional-medical benefits within the two-year limitations period. The Commission also found that the AR-4 Form that Nabholz filed in 2000 had "no legal effect" against White's claim for additional benefits. But the Commission also stated that White had "merely requested a change of physician, rather than additional medical care. While [Nabholz's] argument may eventually be persuasive, should [White] seek additional medical care, it is no defense to his current request to change physicians and have the associated initial examination." White was therefore awarded a statutory one-time change of physician and an initial examination pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 11-9-514. Nabholz did not appeal the Commission's 2007 decision.

A change-of-physician order was entered in 2009, and White treated with Dr. Harold Chakales. In 2010, White requested a hearing for "payment of any outstanding medical, " among other things. Following Dr. Chakales's death, White was awarded a new change-of-physician order to Dr. Gil Johnston. Nabholz paid Dr. Johnston's bill. White was not heard on his 1998 claim for additional-medical benefits until October 2013, when the ALJ convened a hearing and then issued an opinion.

In June 2014, the Commission adopted the ALJ's opinion that stemmed from the October hearing and found that White's claim for additional-medical benefits, and Nabholz's statute-of-limitations defense, had not been adjudicated by the Commission in 2007. This means that the first hearing on White's claim for additional-medical benefits- and the related limitations defense-was held in October 2013. White testified briefly during the October 2013 hearing about his work history and the 2004 car accident.

The Commission also found that the applicable statute of limitations, Ark. Code Ann. § 11-9-702(b), did not time-bar White's additional-medical-benefits claim. The Commission reasoned that, because White had filed an AR-C Form with the "additional benefits" and "additional medical expenses" boxes checked, and the form was filed within two years of White's initial injury in June 1998, the statute's requirements were satisfied. In the Commission's view, the AR-C Form held open White's claim for additional benefits until the "claim was acted upon." The Commission concluded that, because White requested additional-medical treatment in the 1998 AR-C Form and that request was not previously decided or dismissed, White's claim was not barred by the statute.

II. Standard of Review

In reviewing decisions from the Workers' Compensation Commission, we view the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the Commission's decision and affirm if it is supported by substantial evidence. Smith v. City of Ft. Smith, 84 Ark.App. 430, 143 S.W.3d 593 (2004). Substantial evidence is that which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Id. The issue is not whether this court might have reached a ...


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