FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO.
Dashunda Johnson, pro se appellant.
Mayton, Newkirk & Jones, by: Rick Behring Jr., for
BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge
Johnson appeals the decision of the Arkansas Workers'
Compensation Commission (the Commission) that found she had
failed to prove that she sustained a compensable injury. She
essentially argues that the Commission's decision is not
supported by substantial evidence. We affirm.
was an employee of Pizza Hut on 27 February 2016 and claimed
that she injured her back while scrubbing the sidewalk
outside the restaurant. Pizza Hut controverted the claim, and
an administrative law judge (ALJ) convened a hearing on 29
June 2016 to determine Johnson's entitlement to payment
of medical expenses and temporary total-disability benefits.
testified to the following. She began working at Pizza Hut in
October 2014, and her job duties included delivering pizzas,
waiting tables, and answering the phones. On February 27, her
manager, Shalanna Thornton, instructed her to "spray off
the sidewalk. And as I was doing that manual labor it caused
my, it caused my preexisting condition to be
aggravated." She had never had an x-ray or MRI before
this alleged incident, but an x-ray performed after the
alleged incident showed degenerative disc disease. She did
not know how she was injured but said she was
"twisting" and "turning." She did not
experience any pain at the time but started feeling lower
back pain after her lunch break. She reported this pain to
Thornton but finished her shift; she also worked a
twelve-hour shift the next day, February 28. She began taking
Tylenol and Advil after her shift on February 28, and on
March 3, she texted Thornton and told her that she could not
stand the pain and had to see a doctor. On March 4, Johnson
saw her personal physician and was given a steroid shot,
which helped with the pain but wore off after a couple of
days. She currently attends physical therapy twice a week and
takes Neurontin for nerve pain. She has not worked since
February 28 but successfully applied for unemployment. She
was also awaiting a determination on Social Security
benefits. She is forty years old.
cross-examination, she denied having any problems with her
back before 27 February 2016. She also denied ever wearing a
back brace at work before that date. She explained that after
she cleaned the sidewalks, she picked up boxes of cookie
dough and put them in the freezer, went out on two pizza
deliveries, and then went home for lunch. When she stood up
from her couch after eating lunch, she first felt pain in her
back. She went back to work, clocked in, told Thornton that
she felt some pain in her back, and resumed her work duties.
She texted Thornton on February 28 to tell her that she
(Johnson) was still feeling some pain in her back but that
she would be reporting to work. She declined an offer to have
someone work her shift for her.
testified that she was Johnson's supervisor at the time
of the alleged injury. Thornton said that Johnson had
complained of back pain before February 27 and had worn a
back brace at work. On the morning of February 27, Thornton
arrived at the restaurant sometime before 11:00 a.m. and
Johnson was already there. Johnson complained that her back
was hurting, and they had a conversation about kidney stones
and the need to drink more water. This conversation occurred
before Johnson went outside to clean the sidewalks. Johnson
was outside for approximately fifteen minutes, and when she
came back in, she did not complain of any back pain. Thornton
denied that Johnson reported any back pain after returning
from her lunch break. Thornton did receive a text message
from Johnson on February 28, and in that text message Johnson
complained that cleaning the sidewalks was a "man's
job" and she would not do it anymore. Johnson also
claimed that she could not walk, but she did not ask to be
off work and later reported to work as scheduled. Four days
later, Johnson told Thornton by text message that she
(Johnson) had to see a doctor. On March 5, Thornton told
Johnson that she was required to take a drug test pursuant to
company policy; Johnson twice refused a drug test and was
ultimately terminated for failing to take the drug test.
Dawson, a shift leader at Pizza Hut on February 27, testified
that Johnson had already finished cleaning the sidewalks when
she (Dawson) arrived at work and that Johnson did not mention
any back pain due to cleaning the sidewalks. Johnson had
mentioned "something about her back" before that
day, and she had previously worn a back brace at work.
August 2016, the ALJ issued a written opinion that reviewed
the testimony at the hearing and summarized the medical
evidence. According to the ALJ, "[a]n MRI of the
claimant's lumbar spine showed no acute injury, only
preexisting degenerative changes." The ALJ found that
"[b]ased on the MRI scan, the claimant cannot prove she
sustained any recent trauma to her back. Therefore she cannot
meet the elements of proof for a compensable injury and is
not entitled to an award of benefits." The ALJ
The claimant has failed to prove by a preponderance of the
credible evidence that she sustained a compensable injury,
caused by a specific incident, arising out of and in the
course of her employment which produced physical bodily harm,
supported by objective findings, requiring medical treatment
or producing disability, pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. §
opinion dated 13 December 2016, the Commission affirmed and
adopted the ALJ's opinion as its own. Under Arkansas law,
the Commission is permitted to adopt the ALJ's opinion.
SSI, Inc. v. Cates, 2009 Ark.App. 763, 350 S.W.3d
421. In so doing, the Commission makes the ALJ's findings
and conclusions the findings and conclusions of the
Commission. Id. Therefore, for purposes of our
review, we consider both the ALJ's opinion and the
Commission's majority opinion. Id. Johnson now
appeals the Commission's decision.
the Commission's duty to make determinations of
credibility, to weigh the evidence, and to resolve conflicts
in medical testimony and evidence. Martin Charcoal, Inc.
v. Britt, 102 Ark.App. 252, 284 S.W.3d 91 (2008). We
review the Commission's decision in the light most
favorable to its findings and affirm when the decision is
supported by substantial evidence. Parker v. Atl.
Research Corp., 87 Ark.App. 145, 189 S.W.3d 449 (2004).
Substantial evidence is evidence that a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Id. The
issue is not whether the appellate court might have reached a
different result from the Commission, but whether ...