LARRY L. HARRISON APPELLANT/CROSS-APPELLEE
STREET & PERFORMANCE, INC., AND LIBERTY MUTUAL GROUP APPELLEES/CROSS-APPELLANTS
FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO.
G407090] AFFIRMED ON DIRECT APPEAL AND ON CROSS-APPEAL
L. Harrison, pro se appellant.
Ledbetter, Cogbill, Arnold & Harrison, LLP, by: James A.
Arnold II and Joseph Karl Luebke, for appellees.
RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, JUDGE
L. Harrison worked for Street & Performance, Inc. (Street
& Performance), for eleven and a half years as a hemi
technician. He filed a claim with the Arkansas Workers'
Compensation Commission (hereinafter "the
Commission") asserting that his neck, right-arm, and
right-shoulder injuries resulted from his employment with
Street & Performance. Following a hearing before an
administrative law judge (ALJ), the ALJ issued an opinion
denying his claim on June 21, 2016 in its entirety. Harrison
appealed to the Commission, and on its de novo review, the
Commission issued a unanimous opinion dated January 11, 2017,
affirming in part and reversing in part the decision of the
ALJ. Specifically, the Commission found that Harrison proved
that he had sustained a compensable gradual-onset neck injury
but failed to prove that he had sustained a compensable
gradual-onset right-arm or shoulder injury. Harrison filed a
pro se notice of appeal on February 1, 2017, and Street &
Performance filed a notice of cross-appeal on February 7,
2017. The record was lodged with this court on March 14,
2017. We affirm on direct appeal and on cross-appeal.
hemi technician at Street & Performance, Harrison
provided technical assistance to customers over the phone and
worked in the shop installing and repairing car motors.
Harrison worked about ten hours a day at Street &
Performance, typically spending about three to five hours on
the phone and three to seven hours working in the shop.
Harrison's shop work included the removal and
installation of wheels and tires, radiators, disc brakes,
transmissions, motors, batteries, and other car parts.
Harrison testified that he never counted how many cars he
worked on in a year because it would fluctuate but that he
always had at least two cars he would work on at the same
time. Harrison denied that he had been injured in a specific
potential rapid or repetitive work, Harrison testified
regarding two different work activities: (1) closing the
garage-bay door and (2) using a floor jack. Harrison stated
that lifting the garage door was the most repetitive thing he
did at work and indicated that he had to open and close the
door as many as fifteen times during a ten-hour shift.
Harrison noted that he did not have to use the floor jack
every day and used it for only 20 to 30 minutes at a time.
Harrison began to experience issues with his right arm,
including tingling in his fingers and muscle atrophy, in
27, 2014, Harrison went to Sparks Preferred Clinic
complaining of right-arm tingling and loss of muscle mass in
his right arm. An x-ray of Harrison's cervical spine
revealed narrowed disc spaces. An MRI performed a month later
revealed multiple disc protrusions, chronic compression
conformity, and degenerated discs throughout the cervical
spine. Harrison was referred to neurosurgeon Dr. Shawn Moore.
Dr. Moore's note from Harrison's first visit on July
25, 2014, states that Harrison reported a three-year history
of neck pain and frequent heavy lifting. Dr. Moore
recommended surgery, which was performed September 12, 2014.
Before this surgery, Harrison was off work beginning on
August 25, 2014, while recovering from hernia surgery.
Harrison never returned to work at Street & Performance
after August 2014.
31, 2015, Harrison went to Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith with
complaints of "chronic right shoulder pain." He
reported during intake that he had a history of heavy labor
for many years and that he used to lift car radiators for a
living. An x-ray of Harrison's right shoulder was taken
and was normal. An MRI or physical therapy were discussed as
treatment options at the appointment. On September 28, 2015,
Harrison saw Dr. Bao Dang at Sparks Family Medicine South for
shoulder pain and chronic neck pain. Dr. Dang ordered an
orthopedic referral. On October 27, 2015, Harrison saw Dr.
Trent Johnson at Mercy Clinic Orthopedic in Fort Smith. Dr.
Johnson's examination revealed a right-shoulder
rotator-cuff sprain and a possible full- or partial-thickness
tear of the rotator cuff. A follow-up MRI revealed a
full-thickness tear in the intersection of the supraspinatus
tendon, tendinopathy, degenerative changes, bursitis, and a
mild cyst. Dr. Johnson performed a right-shoulder arthroscopy
with arthroscopic rotator-cuff repair, an acromioclavicular
joint resection, and a biceps tenotomy on Harrison's
right shoulder on November 11, 2015.
filed a claim with the Commission claiming his neck,
right-arm, and right-shoulder injuries resulted from his
employment with Street & Performance. Following a
prehearing conference, Harrison's claim was set for a
hearing on March 29, 2016, with the issues being whether he
sustained a compensable gradual-onset injury to his neck,
right arm, and right shoulder as a result of his employment
with Street & Performance and, if he did, whether he was
entitled to medical benefits, temporary-total-disability
benefits, and attorney's fees.
the hearing, Harrison submitted for the record a July 2015
letter from Dr. Moore that noted, "I think it is
probable Mr. Harrison experienced cervical degenerative disc
disease with radiculopathy related to his significant
work-related obligations." Dr. Moore also wrote,
"Although degenerative disc disease is often considered
a chronic degenerative process, the significant work-related
obligations that Mr. Harrison performed most likely
contributed to this underlying condition and the development
of his neck pain and radiculopathy."
Moore was called to testify at the March 29, 2016 hearing
before the ALJ. Dr. Moore explained that Harrison's
condition, degenerative disc disease, is typically a chronic
degenerative process, but it could be exacerbated by certain
work conditions or trauma. As to his letter, Dr. Moore
specifically testified that the "purpose of the letter
was just to indicate [that Harrison] has a chronic
degenerative condition but it can be exacerbated with
significant activities." Dr. Moore noted that while he
could say that Harrison's reported work activities were
"a contributing factor" in the condition, he could
not put a percentage on how much or how little Harrison's
reported activities contributed to the chronic degenerative
condition because "that's subjective." Dr.
Moore testified that the letter he dictated was correct.
the hearing, the ALJ issued an opinion denying Harrison's
claim in its entirety. Harrison then appealed to the
Commission. As noted above, the Commission affirmed in part
and reversed in part the ALJ's decision. The Commission
found that Harrison proved he had sustained a compensable
gradual-onset neck injury but failed to prove that he had
sustained a compensable gradual-onset right-arm or shoulder
injury. It is from those proceedings that both parties
reviewing a decision from the Commission, our court reviews
the evidence and all reasonable inferences deducible
therefrom in the light most favorable to the Commission's
findings and affirms if the decision is supported by
substantial evidence. Nichols v. Micro Plastics,
Inc., 2015 Ark.App. 134. Substantial evidence
exists only if reasonable minds could have reached the same
conclusion without resort to speculation or conjecture.
Id. The issue is not whether the appellate court
might have reached a different result from that of the
Commission but whether reasonable minds could reach the
result found by the Commission. Texarkana Sch. Dist. v.
Conner, 373 Ark. 372, 284 S.W.3d 57 (2008). It is the