GALE A. ASKINS APPELLANT
KROGER LIMITED PARTNERSHIP I AND SEDGWICK CLAIMS MANAGEMENT APPELLEES
FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO.
& Chapman, by: Thomas W. Mickel and Brooklyn R. Parker,
Law Firm PLLC, by: Micheal L. Alexander, for appellees.
K. WOOD, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE
Askins appeals the Arkansas Workers' Compensation
Commission's (Commission) denial of her claim that she
sustained a compensable brain injury while working in a
Kroger store. She argues that substantial evidence does not
support the Commission's finding that her injury was the
result of an idiopathic condition and not an unexplained,
compensable fall. The Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed,
adopting the Commission's opinion, and we granted
Askins's petition for review. We affirm.
contends that she sustained a compensable brain injury when
she fell while working at Kroger in March 2012. Although she
could not remember the incident, she claimed she slipped and
fell while carrying a tray of shrimp out of a cooler.
Alternatively, she argued that her injury was unexplained and
therefore compensable. Kroger argued that her injury was not
sustained on the job because it was idiopathic and therefore
not compensable because it was not related to her employment.
administrative law judge (ALJ) agreed with Kroger. He denied
and dismissed Askins's claim for initial benefits. He
found that Askins fell due to syncope, which was caused by a
preexisting arrhythmic heart condition, and that she did not
fall from a work-related condition. Thus, the ALJ concluded
that Askins suffered from an idiopathic fall, not an
unexplained fall. The Commission and the court of appeals
review the court of appeals' decision as though it had
been originally filed in this court. VanWagner v.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 368 Ark. 606, 249 S.W.3d 123
(2007). We view the evidence in the light most favorable to
the Commission's decision and affirm that decision if it
is supported by substantial evidence. Id.
Substantial evidence exists if reasonable minds could have
reached the same conclusion. Plante v. Tyson Foods,
Inc., 319 Ark. 126, 890 S.W.2d 253 (1994). Therefore, to
reverse the Commission's decision, we must be convinced
that fair-minded persons considering the same facts could not
have reached the conclusion made by the Commission.
Id. It is the Commission's function to determine
the credibility of witnesses and the weight given to their
testimony and to resolve conflicts in medical testimony and
evidence. Estridge v. Waste Mgmt., 343 Ark. 276, 33
S.W.3d 167 (2000).
claimant, Askins must prove a compensable injury. Ark. Code
Ann. § 11-9-102(4)(E) (Repl. 2012). A compensable injury
is one arising out of and in the course of employment. Ark.
Code Ann. § 11-9-102(4)(A)(i). To prove a compensable
injury, she must show by a preponderance of the evidence a
causal relationship between her employment and the injury
with medical evidence supported by objective findings. Ark.
Code Ann. § 11-9-102(4)(D).
appeal, the issue is whether Askins's brain injury was
due to an unexplained cause or whether the cause was
idiopathic. An idiopathic fall is personal in nature or
peculiar to the individual. ERC Contractor Yard &
Sales v. Robertson, 335 Ark. 63, 71, 977 S.W.2d 212, 216
(1998). "Because an idiopathic fall is not related to
employment, it is generally not compensable unless conditions
related to employment contribute to the risk by placing the
employee in a position, which increases the dangerous effect
of the fall." Id. In contrast, a truly
unexplained injury occurs while the employee is on the job
and performing the duties of her employment, and therefore,
the injury is compensable.
ALJ's stated reason for denying benefits, which the
Commission adopted, was that the preponderance of the
evidence established that Askins fell as a result of syncope,
which was caused by an arrhythmic heart condition, rather
than a slip and fall or an unexplained fall. We hold that
substantial evidence supported this decision.
hearing before the ALJ, Askins testified that she had no
recollection of working at Kroger on the day of the incident.
Although her husband claims she told him that she
"slipped and fell and hit [her] head, " in his
deposition he also stated that she told him, "I guess I
passed out." There was no other evidence to support the
contention that she slipped. Rather, her co-worker,
Henderson, testified that earlier in the day, Askins was not
acting like her usual self and was "looking out into
space, " and after the incident she complained of being
"light-headed." He also stated that the customer
who witnessed the fall stated that she "fell out"
or "passed out, " which the ALJ understood to mean
that she appeared to have fainted. Furthermore, Henderson
stated that there were no foreign substances or water on the
floor in the area where Askins fell, and she never mentioned
to him that she slipped. Similarly, Askins's manager
testified that Askins did not report to him that she had
slipped. In fact, she had denied slipping and falling and had
told him that she did not know how she ended up on the floor.
Askins's medical history supported the conclusion that
she had fainted because of arrhythmia. Askins had a history
of arrhythmia and had an implantable cardioverter
defibrillator (ICD) device implanted in 2011. Askins's
treating cardiologist, Dr. De Bruyn, testified that
arrhythmia can cause a person's blood pressure to drop
precipitously, resulting in fainting. Although Askins's
ICD device did not record an event on this particular date,
Dr. De Bruyn admitted that the device may not record certain
syncope incidents. Moreover, Askins told medical personnel
that she had another syncope incident a week before her fall
at Kroger. Given this evidence, substantial evidence exists
to support the Commission's decision to deny Askins
benefits because her fall was idiopathic. Because Askins
failed to prove that there was a causal connection between
the fall and her employment, we affirm.
we reject Askins's additional argument that the
positional-risk doctrine or the increased-risk doctrine is
applicable. Under the positional-risk doctrine, an injury is
compensable if it would not have happened but for the fact
that the conditions or obligations of the employment put the
claimant in the position where she was injured.
Deffenbaugh Indus. v. Angus, 313 Ark. 100, 852
S.W.2d 804 (1993). However, "this doctrine only applies
when the risk is neutral, meaning that the risk which caused
the injury was neither personal to the claimant nor
distinctly associated with the employment." Id.
at 104-05, 852 S.W.2d at 807-08. Under the increased-risk
doctrine, injuries are compensable if the employment ...