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Nucor Yamato Steel Co. v. Kennedy

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

March 1, 2017

NUCOR YAMATO STEEL COMPANY AND SEDGWICK CLAIMS MANAGEMENT SERVICE APPELLANTS
v.
LAWRENCE L. KENNEDY APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO. F910330]

          Jason Ryburn, for appellants.

          No response.

          KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge.

         Nucor Yamato Steel Company (Nucor) appeals from an order of the Workers' Compensation Commission that awarded additional medical treatment to appellee Lawrence Kennedy for treatment of his compensable left carpal tunnel syndrome, to include carpal tunnel release surgery. On appeal, Nucor argues that Mr. Kennedy's claim for additional medical benefits was barred by the statute of limitations. Nucor argues in the alternative that additional medical treatment for Mr. Kennedy's left carpal tunnel syndrome was not reasonable and necessary. We affirm.

         In appeals involving claims for workers' compensation, the appellate court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commission's decision and affirms the decision if it is supported by substantial evidence. Williams v. Ark. Dep't of Cmty. Corr., 2016 Ark.App. 427, 502 S.W.3d 530. Substantial evidence is evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Id. The Commission has the authority to accept or reject medical opinions, and its resolution of the medical evidence has the force and effect of a jury verdict. Id. Finally, this court will reverse the Commission's decision only if it is convinced that fair-minded persons with the same facts before them could not have reached the conclusions arrived at by the Commission. Id.

         Mr. Kennedy began working for Nucor in 1992 and was assigned to various positions. He eventually became a "coil crimper, " which is a hand-intensive job. The parties stipulated that Mr. Kennedy sustained compensable bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome on August 8, 2009. Mr. Kennedy came under the care of Dr. William Bourland, who on August 19, 2009, reported that right-wrist release surgery would be performed first, followed by left-wrist release surgery after Mr. Kennedy had recovered from the first surgery. Dr. Bourland performed right-wrist release surgery on November 17, 2009. After that, Mr. Kennedy continued to be treated for both right- and left-wrist carpal tunnel, but release surgery on his left wrist was not performed.

         The parties had a previous dispute in this case over Mr. Kennedy's entitlement to additional medical treatment. After a hearing in that proceeding, the administrative law judge issued an opinion on March 13, 2013, finding that Mr. Kennedy was entitled to additional medical treatment for his bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. Nucor did not appeal from that decision.

         Subsequent to the March 2013 hearing where the additional medical treatment was ordered, on August 5, 2013, Dr. Richard Wirges evaluated Mr. Kennedy and gave the impression of mild right carpal tunnel syndrome and mild to moderate left carpal tunnel syndrome. Mr. Kennedy continued to experience problems with his right hand, and Dr. Wirges performed a repeat right carpal tunnel release surgery on October 16, 2013. After a follow-up visit on October 29, 2013, Dr. Wirges reported that once Mr. Kennedy's right hand was healed, he would reevaluate the situation and decide whether the left hand would benefit from surgery.

         In a report dated November 26, 2013, Dr. Wirges noted that Mr. Kennedy's left carpal tunnel had so far responded to conservative treatment. Dr. Wirges further indicated that Mr. Kennedy wanted to "get through his right hand first to make sure it does well" before discussing further treatment to the left hand. On June 10, 2014, Dr. Michael Chesser evaluated Mr. Kennedy and noted continued mild to moderate left carpal tunnel syndrome. On October 31, 2014, Dr. Wirges performed an injection to Mr. Kennedy's left carpal tunnel. On December 9, 2014, Dr. Wirges reported that the left-hand injection had provided some relief to Mr. Kennedy, but that his symptoms were beginning to return. Dr. Wirges gave the opinion that Mr. Kennedy would benefit from a left carpal tunnel release. The last report authored by Dr. Wirges came on May 11, 2015, wherein Dr. Wirges gave the following history:

This is a 54-year-old gentleman well known to us is a problem is the right upper extremity was started after carpal tunnel release [sic]. At that time he was also diagnosed with left carpal tunnel syndrome, [he decided] not to undergo/proceed with a left carpal tunnel release because his right hand was not doing well. Ever since that we've been dealing with the right side to try to get [it] better, but the left side has had symptoms the whole time. He is now at the point [where] the right side is well enough to undergo the left carpal tunnel release. He did have a positive improvement with the injection to the left side so we scheduled for a left carpal tunnel release back in December. However, this was denied. He is now back today with the same symptoms and is still ready for left carpal tunnel release. He is still willing and able to go through a left carpal tunnel release surgery. He has no change in exam from back in December.

         On June 9, 2015, Mr. Kennedy filed a written claim asking for surgery and additional pain medication for treatment of his left carpal tunnel syndrome. Nucor contested the claim for additional benefits, and a hearing was held on October 2, 2015. The Commission subsequently ruled that Mr. Kennedy proved entitlement to additional treatment for his left carpal tunnel syndrome, to include release surgery, and that Mr. Kennedy's claim for additional treatment was not barred by the statute of limitations.

         Nucor's first argument on appeal is that the Commission erred in finding that the applicable statute of limitations did not bar Mr. Kennedy's claim for additional benefits. Arkansas ...


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