A.E.R.T., INC. AND NATIONAL UNION FIRE INSURANCE, APPELLANTS
MARIA ESTRADA, APPELLEE
FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO.
ON DIRECT APPEAL; AFFIRMED ON CROSS-APPEAL
Worley, Wood & Parrish, P.A., by: Jarros S. Parrish, for
& Brooks, P.A., by: Evelyn E. Brooks, for appellee.
BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge
2012, Maria Estrada claimed she suffered a gradual-onset back
injury while working for AERT, Inc. The Arkansas Workers'
Compensation Commission denied her claim, reasoning that the
statute of limitations had run on her claim. We reversed the
Commission's statute-of-limitations decision and remanded
the case in November 2014. Estrada v. Aert, Inc.,
2014 Ark.App. 652, 449 S.W.3d 327. The Commission, in turn,
remanded Estrada's claim to an administrative law judge
to "adjudicate the case in accordance with the
instructions from the Court of Appeals."
case was not reopened for new evidence, so the law judge
decided it based on the same evidentiary record the parties
had developed. On remand, the law judge decided that Estrada
had failed to prove that she suffered a gradual-onset low
back-injury around 1 February 2012, because she had
"failed to provide medical evidence in the form of
objective medical findings to support her claim." The
law judge reasoned that no medical records indicated that
Estrada's issues were work related and that no objective
medical findings connected her low-back pain and the need for
surgery to her work.
Commission reversed the law judge's decision and held
that Estrada had "established a compensable injury
supported by objective findings, namely, the spasm shown in
the December 2011 MRI and the disc bulge shown in the August
2012 CT." The Commission found that these objective
findings were causally related to the compensable injury and
not caused by a prior injury or preexisting condition. The
Commission made AERT responsible for benefits from 28
September 2012 forward. AERT appealed the Commission's
decision. Estrada cross-appealed.
argues that the Commission viewed the evidence for Estrada
instead of weighing the documentary and testimonial evidence
impartially. As AERT correctly notes, "[t]he injured
party bears the burden of proof in establishing entitlement
to benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act and must
sustain that burden by a preponderance of the evidence."
Hughes Sch. Dist. v. Bain, 2010 Ark.App. 204, at 4,
374 S.W.3d 173, 176. But we disagree that there is a
burden-of-proof error. Here are the Commission's own
In the present matter, the Full Commission finds that the
claimant proved by a preponderance of the evidence that she
sustained a compensable injury. The claimant became employed
with the respondents in 2005 and her work was
labor-intensive. The claimant's work duties for the
respondent employer included lifting and stacking wood, 12
hours per shift. The claimant began seeking medical treatment
for back pain in December 2009. The treating physician noted
at that time that the claimant was suffering from pain as a
result of "standing all day." The record does not
indicate that the claimant's back pain resulted from any
condition other than the claimant's work for the
The claimant began treating with Dr. Sewell for back pain in
2011. Dr. Sewell returned the claimant to work, "No
bending, twisting, or stacking." The record therefore
indicates that Dr. Sewell connected the claimant's back
pain to her work for the respondents.
Commission specifically recited that Estrada had met her
burden of proof, and it correctly identified the burden.
Regarding the Commission's statement that "[t]he
record does not indicate that the claimant's back pain
resulted from any condition other than the claimant's
work for the respondents, " that is a causation-related
conclusion that it made based on all the evidence before it.
claims that the Commission "manufactured a medical
opinion concerning causation" and relied on two
statements in Estrada's medical records that "simply
do not exist." AERT rightly observes that the Commission
wrongly cited to a 2009 report from Dr. Lawrence Schemel. But
the oversight is immaterial on ...