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Lincoln Public Schools and Arkansas School Boards Association v. Secrist

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

June 8, 2016

LINCOLN PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND ARKANSAS SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION APPELLANTS
v.
DEANNA SECRIST APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NOs. G104112 & G105611]

          Bassett Law Firm LLP, by: Curtis L. Nebbon, for appellants.

          Tolley & Brooks, P.A., by: Evelyn E. Brooks, for appellee.

          DAVID M. GLOVER, Judge

         The issue in this workers' compensation appeal is whether the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission's decision that appellee Deanna Secrist successfully proved she suffered a mental injury in the form of depression as a result of her compensable back injury is in error. The administrative law judge (ALJ) found Secrist had not proved she suffered a compensable mental injury; the Commission reversed that finding. Appellants Lincoln Public Schools and the Arkansas School Boards Association now appeal, arguing the Commission's decision is not supported by substantial evidence and is in error as a matter of law. We reverse.

         Secrist suffered a compensable back injury in September 2010 while employed by appellant Lincoln Public Schools and was assigned a seven percent anatomical-impairment rating for that injury in May 2011. In April 2012, she underwent an osteotomy of the spine at L5-S1 for a correction of sagittal and coronal plane balance, with a postoperative diagnosis of L5-S1 disk herniation with grade 5 annular tear at L5-S1 with sagittal plane imbalance and extreme lateral disk herniation with bilateral lower extremity pain L5 distribution. Secrist underwent physical therapy after surgery and reported she was progressing well; however, she began to have pain, and she was referred to Dr. Mary Daut in January 2014 for pain management. Dr. Daut's assessment of Secrist in January 2014 included "[d]epressive order, not otherwise classified." Rhonda Finley, an APN who had seen and followed Secrist since her surgery, noted in January 2014 she had exhausted all she knew to do regarding Secrist's complaints of pain and opined that Secrist would benefit from seeing a physiatrist and a pain specialist.

         Secrist began treating with Dr. John Childers, a psychologist and licensed professional counselor, in March and April 2014. Secrist did not return to Dr. Childers until October 2014. In his notes of October 14, 2014, Dr. Childers wrote the following:

Symptoms of depression
• Crying more
• Want to leave the house and go do things but body doesn't allow me
• Wanting to sleep
• Sleeping 1–2 hours due to pain
• Social withdrawal
• Fatigue; low energy
• [Unintelligible] is an ...

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