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Pulaski County Special School District v. Laster

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

April 1, 2015

PULASKI COUNTY SPECIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT AND ARKANSAS SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION, APPELLANTS
v.
JEREMY LASTER, APPELLEE

Editorial Note:

This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the printed official reporter.

APPEAL FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION. NO. G305434.

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

Philip M. Wilson, for appellee.

BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge. VIRDEN and HIXSON, JJ., agree.

OPINION

BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge

The Pulaski County Special School District and Arkansas School Boards Association (collectively called the " school district" ) appeal the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission's decision to award Jeremy Laster temporary total-disability benefits. We affirm.

I. Background

For the past five to six years, Jeremy Laster has worked for the Pulaski County Special School District as a lighting specialist in the maintenance department. He typically performs manual labor from 6:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. On the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before Memorial Day weekend in May 2013, Laster worked at Sylvan Hills Middle and High School digging ditches and putting pipe in the ground. He claimed to have injured himself while on the job and pursued a compensation claim.

Laster testified at the administrative hearing that he experienced " serious" back pain beginning late Friday night or early Saturday morning, that it worsened over the weekend despite treating it with over-the-counter pain medicine, and that he went to St. Vincent's emergency room around 10:00 p.m. on Sunday night because he just " could not stand it." Laster's mother testified that she met Laster at the emergency room and he was " just about in tears" and " could not walk."

Laster was not scheduled to work on Memorial Day or the next day, which was Tuesday (May 28). On Tuesday, Laster saw his regular family physician, Dr. Roberts, to evaluate his ongoing back pain. On Wednesday morning (May 29), a day he was scheduled to work, Laster text messaged his immediate supervisor and told him that he could not work that day. The record contains a Form AR-N " Employee's Notice of Injury" from Laster, dated Wednesday 29 May 2013. Laster described his injury on the AR-N form as " riding ditch-witch bouncing around & pulling PVC pipe in ditch. Back & leg pain started in . . . 5-24-13. Ended up in ER on 5-26-13." The form has a " received" stamp dated 4 June 2013.

Laster's immediate supervisor, Franklin Thomas, testified before the ALJ that he " had no idea" that Laster was " claiming a back injury or anything at work" when Laster missed work through Friday May 31. Thomas reportedly told Laster that he needed a doctor's excuse before he returned to work, which was on June 7 or 8.

Laster received medical treatment for his back at Concentra on 5 June 2013. The records from the Concentra visit state, " Patient is a 32 year old male employee of Pulaski County Special School Dist[rict] who complains about his Back which was injured on 5.24.2013. . . . Patient states: 'was digging a ditch and pulling pipe thru the ditch.'" Laster was diagnosed with " lumbar radiculopathy" and " disc protrusion with nerve root compression L3/L4." An MRI showed a herniated disk on Laster's left side at L3-4. Laster ...


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