FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION. NO.
APPELLEE: CONRAD THOMAS ODOM.
APPELLANT: CURTIS L NEBBEN.
GRUBER, Judge. GLADWIN, C.J., and VIRDEN, J., agree.
W. GRUBER, Judge
Manufacturing, Inc., appeals the decision of the Arkansas
Workers' Compensation Commission that adjudicated Rebecca
Bruner's claim of bilateral carpal-tunnel syndrome as a
compensable injury. La-Z-Boy contends that the
Commission's finding that the claim was not barred by the
statute of limitations is an error of law and is not
supported by substantial evidence. We disagree and affirm.
exceptions not relevant to the present case, a claim for
compensation for disability on account of an injury shall be
barred unless filed with the Commission within two years from
the date of the compensable injury. Ark. Code Ann. §
11-9-702(a)(1) (Repl. 2012). The statute of limitations for
gradual-onset injuries, such as carpal-tunnel syndrome,
begins to run when the injury becomes apparent to the
claimant. Pina v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 91 Ark.App.
77, 84, 208 S.W.3d 236, 239-40 (2005) (citing Minnesota
Mining & Manufacturing v. Baker, 337 Ark. 94, 989
S.W.2d 151 (1999)); see also Cottage Cafe, Inc.
v. Collette, 94 Ark.App. 72, 76, 226 S.W.3d 27, 30
(2006). The claimant's awareness that her injury is
causally related to the working environment is not an element
of the inquiry. Pina, 91 Ark.App. at 85, 208 S.W.3d
contends that the Commission disregarded case law that has
established the analysis for a determination of the
commencement of the limitations period. La-Z-Boy also
challenges the Commission's finding that Ms. Bruner's
injury was first apparent to her in October 2013 when her
symptoms were diagnosed as carpal-tunnel syndrome and she
reported her injury to her supervisor. La-Z-Boy argues that
Ms. Bruner " was clearly aware of her injury, by her own
admission, five or six years prior to filing a claim"
and that testimony and medical records " conclusively
show" her awareness three years before she filed her
claim in November 2013. The administrative law judge outlined
these issues as follows:
The Commission has been asked to determine if the claimant
sustained a compensable injury in the form of bilateral
carpal tunnel syndrome with symptoms manifesting on October
22, 2013. However, the respondent has raised the statute of
limitations as an affirmative defense. Therefore, the first
question that must be addressed is if this claim is barred by
the statute of limitations.
the statute-of-limitations issue, the Commission wrote the
following in the opinion that we now review:
[T]he Incident Statement completed by the claimant on
November 7, 2013 indicated that she had suffered from "
tingling and numbness" five to six years. Nevertheless,
the claimant correctly states on appeal that she was not
diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome until October 2013. The
claimant cites Pina v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 91
Ark.App. 77, 208 S.W.3d 236 (2005). In Pina, the
Court of Appeals affirmed the Commission's determination
that the statute of limitations began running at the time the
claimant complained of symptoms to her supervisor. The Full
Commission finds in the instant matter that the two-year
statute of limitations did not begin running until October
2013, when the claimant first reported symptoms to her
supervisor. The claimant's supervisor, Shelly Smith,
corroborated the claimant's contention that she did not
report work-related symptoms until October 2013. The claimant
filed claim for worker's compensation no later than March
2014, well within the two-year statutory period. The Full
Commission finds that the claimant's gradual-onset injury
did not " become apparent" to the claimant until
October 2013, when the claimant reported work-related
symptoms to her supervisor. We find that the " true
extent" of the claimant's injury did not manifest
until October 2013. See Hall's Cleaners v.
Wortham, 311 Ark. 103, 842 S.W.2d 7 (1992).
Commission also concluded that Ms. Bruner proved that she had
sustained a gradual-on-set injury causing physical harm to
the body, which arose out of and in the course of employment.
asserts on appeal that, in determining when a scheduled
gradual-onset injury legally commences, the Commission
applied the " manifestation" approach that we have
previously rejected as improper. La-Z-Boy further argues that
the record " is flooded with evidence" that Ms.
Bruner knew of, recognized, and was aware of her injury
" for over three years prior to October 2013." It
points to testimony by her coworker Curtis Nebber, who on
cross-examination said that Ms. Bruner " possibly"
complained about her hands before then and to Ms.
Bruner's testimony that she had previously experienced
pain and numbness.
Collette, 94 Ark.App. at 75, 226 S.W.3d at 29-30,
where successive insurers accepted neither the compensability
of the ...