SANDRA C. WILLIAMS APPELLANT
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY CORRECTION AND ARKANSAS INSURANCE DEPARTMENT, PUBLIC EMPLOYEE CLAIMS DIVISION APPELLEES
FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO.
Davis, for appellant.
Charles H. McLemore Jr., for appellee.
KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge.
Sandra Williams appeals from a January 8, 2016 opinion by the
Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission)
affirming and adopting the findings of fact and conclusions
of law made by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in favor of
appellees the Arkansas Department of Community Correction and
the Arkansas Insurance Department, Public Employee Claims
Division. On appeal, appellant contends that the
Commission's assignment of permanent partial-disability
(PPD) benefits was not supported by substantial evidence. We
disagree and affirm.
injured both arms and left knee on April 16, 2012, in a fall
during her employment at the Arkansas Department of Community
Correction. Appellees contested the claim. The ALJ found in a
March 11, 2013 opinion that the injuries were compensable and
that appellant was entitled to temporary total-disability
(TTD) benefits. Appellees did not appeal that decision.
reaching maximum medical improvement, appellant sought PPD
benefits arising out of her compensable injuries. Dr. J. Adam
Smitherman, appellant's treating physician, assigned a
forty-seven percent impairment rating to her right upper
extremity and a five percent impairment rating to her left
upper extremity. On the other hand, Dr. Bruce Randolph, who
was retained by appellees to perform an independent medical
examination on appellant, assigned only a four percent
impairment rating to appellant's right wrist, a two
percent impairment rating to appellant's right elbow, and
a six percent impairment rating to her left wrist. A hearing
was held before the ALJ on March 12, 2015, to determine the
extent of appellant's permanent impairment.
hearing, appellant testified that Dr. Smitherman was her
treating physician and that she had seen him several times.
She saw Dr. Randolph on only one occasion after appellees had
requested an independent medical evaluation. Appellant
testified that both doctors conducted range-of-motion
testing, which included testing where she moved her
extremities (active range of motion) and testing
where the doctor moved her extremities with her
relaxed (passive range of motion).
reviewed the medical records of each physician. The pertinent
medical records reflect that Dr. Smitherman issued a written
physician's statement opining that appellant had a
forty-seven percent impairment rating to her upper extremity
and a five percent impairment rating to her left wrist. Dr.
Smitherman's statement additionally provided that the
objective and measurable findings that formed the bases for
the ratings included "[l]oss of motion in Right Elbow,
wrist & hand; Loss of motion Left elbow &
wrist." Furthermore, Dr. Smitherman cited to Figures 32
and 35 and Tables 3 and 15 of the American Medical
Association's Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent
Impairment, Fourth Edition (AMA Guidelines), in support of
his findings. Lastly, Dr. Smitherman checked the
corresponding box on the report form indicating that he used
passive range-of-motion criteria in assigning appellant's
Randolph examined appellant on February 10, 2015. In a very
detailed report with charts and calculations, Dr. Randolph
assigned a four percent upper-extremity impairment rating for
appellant's right wrist, a two percent upper-extremity
impairment rating for appellant's right elbow, and a six
percent upper-extremity impairment rating for appellant's
left wrist. Using the AMA Guidelines, Dr. Randolph calculated
that these ratings translated to a seven percent whole-person
impairment rating due to the loss of motion in
appellant's right wrist, right elbow, and left wrist. He
further explained that these ratings were based on passive
range-of-motion criteria and were "given within
reasonable medical certainty."
the hearing, the ALJ filed its opinion on June 9, 2015,
wherein it adopted the impairment ratings of Dr. Randolph and
found that the appellant sustained a four percent
upper-extremity impairment rating for appellant's right
wrist, a two percent upper-extremity impairment rating for
appellant's right elbow, and a six percent
upper-extremity impairment rating for appellant's left
wrist, and that appellant did not sustain her burden of
proving additional impairment.
resolving the conflicting medical opinions between Dr.
Smitherman and Dr. Randolph concerning appellant's
impairment rating, the ALJ specifically made the following
The Commission is authorized to accept or reject a medical
opinion and is authorized to determine its medical soundness
and probative value. Poulan Weed Eater v. Marshall,
79 Ark.App. 129, 84 S.W.3d 878 (2002); Green Bay Packing
v. Bartlett, 67 Ark.App. 332, 999 S.W.2d 692 (1999).
Based on my review of the evidence, I credit that both
Smitherman and Randolph used only passive range-of-motion
testing in assigning their ratings that they represented were
based only on such testing.
That said, in examining Dr. Smitherman's findings, there
is no way to tell if the impairment ratings he assessed are
valid ones based on his testing. When asked to cite the
objective and measurable findings that he used, the doctor
simply responded: "Loss of motion in Right Elbow, wrist,
& head; Loss of motion Left elbow & wrist."
These are not quantified in the evidence at bar. One cannot
determine if the findings of his passive range-of-motion
testing comport with Figures 32 and 35 and Tables 3 and
15-which Smitherman stated that he used-without resorting to
speculation and conjecture. But speculation and conjecture
cannot serve as a substitute for proof. Dena Construction
Co. v. Herndon, 264 Ark. 791, 796, 575 S.W.2d 155
(1979). That said, I cannot, and do not, credit his findings
regarding the degree of Claimant's alleged impairment.
Dr. Randolph's findings, on the other hand, are
extensively documented and comport with those portions of the
AMA Guides he cited in support of the ratings he assigned
under them. I thus credit his findings and find that the
evidence preponderates that Claimant is entitled to
impairment ratings of four percent (4%) to her right ...