ARKANSAS GAME AND FISH COMMISSION, PUBLIC EMPLOYEE CLAIMS DIVISION; AND DEATH & PERMANENT TOTAL DISABILITY TRUST FUND APPELLANTS
OSCAR A. GERARD, JR. APPELLEE
FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO.
H. Montgomery, Public Employee Claims Division, for
Alan Peoples, PLC, by: Mark Alan Peoples, for appellee.
R. BAKER, Associate Justice
appeal stems from a decision from the Full Commission of the
Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission. On May 12,
2002, appellee, Oscar Gerard, suffered a compensable injury.
The appellant, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
("AG&F"), accepted the injury as compensable
and paid workers'-compensation benefits and expenses as a
result of his injury. Between 1999 and 2013, Gerard had three
surgeries for his work-related injuries while employed by
February 19, 2014, Gerard's treating back surgeon
declared that Gerard had attained maximum medical improvement
with 16 percent impairment. Thereafter, AG&F accepted
liability for the 16 percent impairment rating and a 10
percent wage loss. Subsequently, two other doctors
independently evaluated Gerard, and both opined that
Gerard's impairment rating was 23 percent to the body as
a whole. AG&F accepted the 23 percent impairment rating.
2015, Gerard sought additional temporary total-disability
benefits, alleging that he was entitled to either permanent
and total disability benefits or alternatively wage-loss
disability benefits as a result of his work-related injury.
Gerard further alleged that he was entitled to permanent
partial-disability benefits in excess of 10 percent due to
the 7 percent increase in his impairment rating; he was
entitled to additional temporary total disability benefits.
Further, Gerard asserts that AG&F should not be entitled
to any offset pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 11-9-411
December 22, 2015, an administrative law judge
("ALJ") held a hearing. On February 23, 2016, the
ALJ issued an opinion finding, among other things, that
Gerard established that he is entitled to a 35 percent
wage-loss disability award and that AG&F was allowed to
take credit for the previous 10 percent wage loss paid. The
ALJ further found that AG&F was entitled to the offset
provided for in Ark. Code Ann. § 11-9-411 because
"it appears to this examiner that Mr. Gerard's
Arkansas Public Employment Retirement System
("APERS") retirement benefits rate of $2, 424.67 to
$2, 479.79 per month would far exceed his workers'
compensation benefit rates of $277.00 or $369.00 per
week." The ALJ also found that Gerard's attorney was
entitled to a 25 percent fee on the indemnity benefits
awarded to Gerard, "one-half of which is to be paid by
the claimant and one-half to be paid by the respondents in
accordance with Ark. Code Ann. § 11-9-715 [.]"
AG&F tendered its half of the attorneys' fees. The
parties did not appeal this order.
April 18, 2016, Gerard filed a motion to enforce payment of
the attorneys' fees. Gerard asserted that his disability
retirement compensation exceeded the award of additional
benefits, and the offset depleted the "payable
benefits" from which the attorneys' fees should be
paid. Gerard argued that he effectively never received any
compensation, and because Ark. Code Ann. §
11-9-715(a)(2)(B)(i) requires that Gerard's payment of
attorneys' fees must come from any benefits he was
awarded, AG&F must pay the remaining half of the fees.
AG&F responded that it had paid one-half of the
attorneys' fees to the proper entities, and pursuant to
Ark. Code Ann. § 11-9-715(a)(2)(B)(i), Gerard was
responsible for his half of the attorneys' fees out of
his own pocket, if necessary.
found that the "deduction of the claimant's one-half
of the controverted attorneys' fees out of compensation
payable to the claimant under Arkansas Code Annotated section
11-9-715(a)(2)(B)(i) precedes any reduction in benefits
provided for under Arkansas Code Annotated section
11-9-411(a)(1)" and ordered AG&F to pay Gerard's
one-half of the fees to Gerard's attorney out of the
benefits awarded to the claimant. AG&F appealed to the
Full Commission, and the Commission affirmed and adopted the
ALJ's decision. AG&F appealed to the court of
appeals, which reversed the Full Commission's decision.
Arkansas Game & Fish Comm'n v. Gerard, 2017
Ark.App. 523, at 1-4, 530 S.W.3d 887, 888-89. On December 14,
2017, we granted Gerard's petition for review. When this
court grants a petition for review, it considers the appeal
as though the case originally had been filed in this court.
Jones Bros., Inc. v. Whitlock, 366 Ark. 254, 257,
234 S.W.3d 864, 867 (2006).
appeal, AG&F presents two points: (1) whether the Full
Commission erred in its interpretation of Ark. Code Ann.
§ 11-9-715 by requiring AG&F to pay Gerard's
one-half portion of the attorney's fees due from the
benefits awarded; and (2) whether the Full Commission erred
when it found that the General Assembly intended the
attorney's fees awarded pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. §
11-9-715 to have priority over the offset provided for in
Ark. Code Ann. § 11-9-411.
appeals involving claims for workers' compensation, our
court views the evidence in a light most favorable to the
Commission's decision and affirms the decision if it is
supported by substantial evidence. Hapney v. Rheem
Manufacturing Co., 341 Ark. 548, 26 S.W.3d 771 (2000);
Burlington Indus. v. Pickett, 336 Ark. 515, 988
S.W.2d 3 (1999). Substantial evidence is evidence that a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Williams v. Prostaff Temps., 336 Ark.
510, 988 S.W.2d 1 (1999). The issue is not whether the
appellate court might have reached a different result from
the Commission; if reasonable minds could reach the result
found by the Commission, the appellate court must affirm the
decision. Minnesota Mining & Mfg. v. Baker, 337
Ark. 94, 989 S.W.2d 151 (1999)." Wallace v. W.
Fraser S., Inc., 365 Ark. 68, 69-70, 225 S.W.3d 361,
in reviewing §§ 11-9-715 and 11-9-411, "we
construe the statutes so that no word is left void,
superfluous, or insignificant, and we give meaning and effect
to every word in the statute, if possible. McMickle v.
Griffin, 369 Ark. 318, 254 S.W.3d 729 (2007). 'When
interpreting statutes, our review is de novo, as it is for
this court to decide what a constitutional and statutory
provision mean.' Ark. Hotels and Ent't, Inc. v.
Martin, 2012 Ark. 335, 423 S.W.3d 49. 'In
considering the meaning of a statute, we consider it just as
it reads, giving the words their ordinary and usually
accepted meaning.' Nelson v. Timberline Int'l,
Inc., 332 Ark. 165, 176, 964 S.W.2d 357, 362 (1998).
Additionally, in construing any statute, we place it beside
other statutes relevant to the subject matter in question and
ascribe meaning and effect to be derived from the whole.
Lawhon Farm Servs. v. Brown, 335 Ark. 272, 984
S.W.2d 1 (1998). Statutes relating to the same subject must
be construed together and in harmony, if possible. Jester
v. State, 367 Ark. 249, 239 S.W.3d 484 (2006)."
Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharm., Inc. v. State, 2014
Ark. 124, at 10-11, 432 S.W.3d 563, 571. "However, when
we construe the workers' compensation statutes we must