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Emergency Ambulance Service, Inc. v. Burnett

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

May 6, 2015



Worley, Wood & Parrish, P.A., by: Melissa Wood, for appellant.

C. Michael White, for appellee.



Page 370


Emergency Ambulance Service, Inc., and AIG Claims, Inc., appeal the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission's (Commission) September 15, 2014 opinion finding that appellee Carla Burnett was entitled to additional medical treatment but finding her claims for permanent total-disability benefits and wage loss and appellant's entitlement to credit for overpayment of temporary total-disability benefits premature and not ripe for determination.[1] Appellants contend that

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substantial evidence does not support the Commission's decision to award additional treatment and that the Commission erred when it reserved issues on behalf of appellee. We affirm.

At the hearing before the ALJ, appellee testified that she was a sixty-year-old high school graduate. After high school, she attended two years of college studying physical education, and completed a two-year vo-tech program in one year, obtaining a certificate in computerized accounting. Appellee then worked in a CPA's office performing computer work until her husband asked her to stop working. She then went to EMT school in 1997 and obtained a certificate to work as an emergency medical technician (EMT). She began working as an EMT in 1997-98 at DeWitt Hospital. Appellee had been working for Emergency Ambulance Services, Inc., for almost sixteen years which, on August 6, 2011, when she suffered a compensable low-back injury while unloading a patient by stretcher from an ambulance.

Appellee testified that she had prior back problems as early as 1992. She explained that her symptoms after the August 6, 2011 incident were different than the ones she had before the incident. She said that the incident caused shaking, trembling, and the inability to lift. She testified that her prior back problems had never prevented her from working. She had a back injury in April 2002 and was treated by Dr. Barry Baskin but was not ever off work due to that injury. After the injury in August 2011, she could no longer mow the yard. She explained that it initially affected one side of her body--the outside of the right side of her leg--but that it now affects both sides of her leg. She testified that she cannot lift or squat; requires help getting dressed and getting in and out of the shower at times; can no longer get in the bathtub; is limited on how long she can stand to cook; can lift a gallon of milk or an iron skillet at the most; and is able to go grocery shopping but cannot carry the groceries. She said that her husband helps with these issues. Appellee testified that she currently had problems in her legs, low back, and bottoms of her feet. She explained that she had no problems in those areas prior to the August 6, 2011 injury. She said that she had previously undergone a nerve-conduction test, but could not recall the date.

Appellee said that she had not worked since August 6, 2011. She testified that she was only able to sit comfortably for approximately thirty minutes, she could stand for five-to-ten minutes, and she was no longer able to garden or play with her grandchildren. She described a good day as going outside to swing in the yard. She claims that on a bad day she could not get up at all because she had no feeling in her legs.

She testified that she could not work at a cleaners because she could not stand for extended periods of time. She testified that she could not work at the desk job for a CPA because she was not able to sit for extended periods of time. She could not work as an EMT because she could not lift, push, or pull. She was able to drive but was unable to ride in a car for an extended period of time.

On cross-examination, appellee testified that she had let her EMT certificates lapse, but not her CPR certification. She said that she was also injured in April 2002

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when lifting a pregnant woman who weighed over 400 pounds. She explained that she injured her low back and was initially seen by a company doctor, who ordered an MRI and referred her to Dr. Reza Shahim and Dr. Baskin. Dr. Baskin ordered a TENS unit and prescribed muscle relaxers and pain pills. She had muscle spasms and numbness in her right leg. She testified that she had recovered one hundred percent and had no continuing symptoms or complaints from that injury. Appellee testified that she began drawing social security disability benefits of $980 per month due to her back problems and depression in October 2013.

The parties stipulated that Randy Burnett's testimony would be that he was appellee's spouse and had known her well several years before August 6, 2011. He had the opportunity to observe her during that period of time and did not see her demonstrate any limitations related to physical problems at that time. Since August 6, 2011, he had seen her demonstrate the limitations consistent with her testimony.

Medical records reflect that appellee sought treatment with Dr. Stan Burleson with complaints of persistent back pain after twisting on October 19, 1992. He noted that she had a pop and was experiencing muscle spasms. He also noted that she had been seen by a chiropractor that morning and had undergone x-rays. She returned to Dr. Burleson ...

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