RICHARD G. JOHNSON APPELLANT
PAM TRANSPORT, INC., AND ZURICH AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY APPELLEES
FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO.
McKinnon Law Firm, by: David L. Schneider, for appellant.
Mayton, Newkirk & Jones, by: David C. Jones, for appellee
P.A.M. Transport, Inc..
D. VAUGHT, Judge.
G. Johnson appeals the Arkansas Workers' Compensation
Commission's (Commission) opinion entered on October 12,
2016, denying compensability of his claim. On appeal, Johnson
argues that the Commission failed to adequately consider the
medical records that identify objective findings supporting
his compensable injuries and that the Commission's
conclusions about his credibility are not supported by the
record and should not act as a bar to benefits. We affirm.
hearing before the administrative law judge (ALJ), Johnson
testified that after successful careers as a plaintiff's
trial lawyer and a businessman,  he decided
"truck driving might be fun." He applied for work
at PAM Transport, Inc. (PAM Transport), in January 2014 and
was later hired. Johnson said that on June 15, 2014, he was
asleep in the cabin of his truck when his codriver suddenly
stopped, causing Johnson to be thrown from the cabin into the
dashboard and windshield. He stated that he immediately
reported the incident to PAM Transport via an electronic
computer system in the truck. Although he testified that he
was severely injured because of the incident-suffering
injuries to his neck, back, left shoulder, left elbow, head,
and hip-he reported to PAM Transport that he suffered only
"minor cuts, scrapes, and bruises" and that he did
not need medical attention. He explained that he did not
understand the extent of his injuries at that time because he
had suffered a concussion as a result of the incident.
Johnson said that he continued driving the truck as
scheduled, traveling to New York and then to Ohio. He got a
ride home to Pennsylvania with his codriver. Johnson
continued to work at PAM Transport until August 15, 2014.
7, 2014, Johnson sought treatment from his chiropractor, Dr.
Eric Segal. At this visit, Johnson complained of neck
and low-back pain that he claimed had been caused by the June
15 incident. Johnson testified that PAM Transport sent him to
Dr. John Metcalf on August 27, 2014. After the examination,
Dr. Metcalf concluded that Johnson suffered from
"chronic cervical/trapezius pain (unknown
etiology)" and that his "[s]ubjective complaints
seem to outweigh objective findings." Dr. Metcalf
further stated that "there are some questions concerning
the extent of the patient's complaints . . . . When
questioned why he was using a cane, he stated he was using it
for fun." Dr. Metcalf opined that Johnson could return
to full-duty work.
testified that he was having trouble walking, he could not
hold things, he could not get out of bed, and he was
disabled. He testified that he tried to return to Dr. Metcalf
for treatment, but his office would not return his call.
Therefore, Johnson sought treatment from several other
providers, including Dr. Segal, Dr. Robert Liss (orthopedic),
Dr. Betty Liu (physical medicine and rehabilitation), and Dr.
David Lesondak (integrative medicine). Johnson testified that
Dr. Lesondak's treatment, after about a year and a half,
greatly improved his condition and that he was "pretty
well back to normal now."
stated that before the incident giving rise to this claim he
was in very good condition and that he had passed a physical
to get his commercial driver's license. But he admitted
that in the past, he had suffered from headaches and minor
neck problems; he had seizures; and he had been hit in the
head by a car door and he hit his head after he slipped and
fell on ice. He said that as part of his PAM Transport
application process, he was required to complete a form
regarding his past medical history and that he was truthful
in filling out the form. On the document, he was asked
whether he had had any illness or injury in the past five
years, to which he answered yes and explained that he had
intestinal issues; he denied having had head injuries,
seizures, spinal injury or disease, and chronic low-back
pain. He said that he answered the way he did because he
thought the form wanted to know about his current situation.
Snodgrass, PAM Transport's fleet manager, testified that
on July 12, 2014, approximately a month after Johnson's
incident in the truck and five days after Johnson had been
treated by Dr. Segal, she contacted him concerning his
ninety-day evaluation. Johnson advised Snodgrass that he had
been injured as a result of the incident but that he was
okay. He told Snodgrass that he was very happy with PAM
Transport and that it took very good care of him. Snodgrass
said that Johnson did not mention that he had received
treatment from Dr. Segal five days prior.
Wallace, PAM Transport's occupations-injury manager,
testified that Johnson contacted her on August 20, 2014, and
reported that he had sustained injuries because of the June
15, 2014 incident. Wallace arranged for Johnson to see Dr.
Metcalf on August 27, 2014. Wallace testified that PAM
Transport controverted Johnson's claim after she reviewed
Dr. Metcalf's report that identified no objective
findings in support of new injuries and that returned Johnson
to work at full duty.
Brown, the medical-compliance manager at PAM Transport,
testified that Johnson took the Department of Transportation
(DOT) medical examination on January 29, 2014. She stated
that the form asks for medical information going back five
years and that applicants are required to provide truthful
information. She said that on that the paperwork, Johnson
failed to disclose his history of seizures, his prior head
injuries, or his chronic neck and low-back issues. Brown
stated that she believed that Johnson provided false
information on the examination and that had PAM Transport had
known of his prior medical history, it would not have allowed
him to drive a truck. Based on this evidence, PAM Transport
raised the Shippers defense.
written opinion filed on February 17, 2016, the ALJ reviewed
the testimony and the medical evidence and concluded that
Johnson "failed to meet his burden of proving by a
preponderance of the evidence that he suffered compensable
injuries on June 15, 2014." The ALJ found that
Johnson's testimony relating his complaints to the June
15, 2014 incident lacked credibility because (1) he advised
Snodgrass less than a month after the incident that he was
okay and that he was impressed with the way PAM Transport
handled the situation; (2) he continued to work for PAM
Transport until August 15, 2014, and did not request medical
treatment from PAM Transport until August 24, 2014; (3) he
had a history of chronic neck and back complaints dating back
to 2011, along with a history of recurrent severe
headaches/migraines dating back to 2010, and he failed to
list his complete medical history on the DOT examination; and
(4) he was a very educated, sophisticated individual who
should have been aware of the questions being asked on the
DOT document. The ALJ further found that if Johnson had been
credible, he failed to offer medical evidence supported by
objective findings establishing an injury. The ALJ found that
the only objective findings after June 15 were the same
objective findings that existed before June 15.
appealed the ALJ decision to the Commission. The Commission
affirmed and adopted the ...