NATIONAL TRANSIT STAFFING, INC., AND TRIANGLE INSURANCE COMPANY APPELLANTS
MARK JOSEPH NORRIS APPELLEE
FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO.
Bassett Law Firm LLP, by: Tod C. Bassett, for appellants.
Michael Hamby, P.A., by: Michael Hamby, for appellee.
BRANDON J. HARRISON, JUDGE
issue here is whether methamphetamine was present in Mark
Norris's body when he was injured at work so that his
employer and its insurance carrier are entitled to receive a
rebuttable presumption that the workplace injury was
substantially occasioned by the drug. The Arkansas
Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission) answered
no, and Norris's employer and its insurance carrier
appeal that decision. We hold that substantial evidence
supports the Commission's decision. We also affirm the
Commission's award of temporary total-disability (TTD)
The Accident and Its Aftermath
Transit Staffing employed Norris as a truck driver and tasked
him to carry a load from a Van Buren nursery to a St. Louis
facility on 4 June 2015. Norris injured himself at the
nursery loading dock during the early morning hours. His left
hand apparently became wedged between two plates in a
hydraulic lift. Within a few minutes of the accident, Norris
freed himself, phoned a friend for directions to a nearby
hospital, and drove himself there. Medical personnel at
Summit Hospital in Van Buren evaluated Norris, concluded that
repairing his crushed-thumb injury was beyond their
capabilities, and sent him by ambulance to UAMS in Little
Rock. Medical records from the Van Buren hospital visit noted
that his thumb was crushed between two metal plates. The
records also report that Norris appeared to be uncomfortable
and that he was "anxious, appropriate for age,
cooperative." At 4:26 a.m., Norris's pain was a
"10 out of 10." At 4:41 a.m., Norris was given
Dilaudid (a strong pain medicine) and Zofran (anti-nausea
medicine) intravenously. Norris left the emergency department
around 7:20 a.m.
paramedic report from the ambulance trip between Van Buren
and Little Rock stated that Norris had reported that he
caught his thumb between two pieces of sheet rock, and the
doctor reported that the bones in Norris's thumb were
shattered. The paramedic report also stated that Norris
reported his pain level to be "at 2 at this time"
and that he had been given Dilaudid and Zofran before the
ambulance arrived in Little Rock. While traveling to UAMS,
Norris started experiencing pain that was 10 on a scale of 1
to 10. He was given fentanyl (a strong opioid), which reduced
his pain to 2 out of 10.
UAMS, Norris was evaluated and given morphine and Zofran at
10:34 a.m. At 10:54 a.m., Norris consented to surgery, which
was done that day around 1:00 p.m., using a regional
anesthesia. Norris was discharged the next day.
emergency-department physician Dr. Delany L. Kinchen noted,
"Psychiatric: He has a normal mood and affect. Judgment
and thought content normal. Very bizarre affect." Dr.
Theresa O. Wyrick, an orthopedic surgeon who amputated
Norris's thumb, stated in her preoperative and
postoperative diagnoses that Norris suffered "[a]cute
methamphetamine use." Other records from UAMS indicate
that Norris admitted "recreational drug use,
methamphetamine every month or two" and that
"[p]atient states he smoked and injected 'go
fast' (methamphetamine) within the last 24 hours-he
appears somewhat intoxicated."
recovering back home in Huntington, Arkansas, Norris signed a
notice-of-injury form on 10 June 2015 and wrote this account
of the accident:
It was 2 a.m. dark behind little truck went to close rear
door, kept open to get air to plants. I hit button on rear
truck tail gate lift thing snapped so quick chain got left
hand pinned it till I could get it loose.
Transit Staffing and its insurance carrier initially paid a
short period of temporary total-disability benefits and
medical treatment before disputing the claim entirely.
the administrative hearing on the disputed claim, Norris
described what happened in the emergency room this way:
Oh, the first thing off the bat, they cut off the glove. And
then when, you know my thumb fell out, it was all exploded
and in pieces. You could see like the bones in your hand
because it was all cut open. They just immediately started
giving me, I guess, pain medicine.
described being in and out of consciousness during the
ambulance ride to Little Rock. He remembered "bit and
pieces" of the discussions he had with the
anesthesiologist who asked him about his drug use because
"you could have a heart attack and stuff." He did
not recall telling a doctor that he had used methamphetamine.
According to Norris, he was "so delirious and just in
and out so much." Norris denied using methamphetamine
within a week of the accident.
cross-examination, the following colloquy occurred:
Defense Counsel: So how long have you been doing
methamphetamine, Mr. Norris?
Norris: Like I told you the last time, gosh, I've partied
a few times a year. I am not quite sure.
Defense Counsel: Before this accident happened, you had been
a methamphetamine user; had you not?
Norris: Yes, I have done it, yes.
Defense Counsel: But on this particular night, you are saying
that you did not use it, correct?
. . . .
Defense Counsel: [Y]ou told the anesthesiologist that you
used go-fast meth, that you both smoked it and injected it
within 24 hours. You told him that, didn't you, sir?
Norris: I don't remember. . . . .
Defense Counsel: I asked you at your deposition why you would
use methamphetamine and you told me, did you not, sir,
because it would make you feel awake? Is that a fair
Defense Counsel: Also, it would make you go fast. Isn't
that also true?
Norris: Yes, it is possible. . . . .
Defense Counsel: And you told me that when you used meth that
you could definitely feel its effects for six to eight hours;
is that correct?
Norris: Possibly, yes.
Defense Counsel: So what you did on this particular evening,
isn't it true, Mr. Norris, that you used some meth
anticipating you were going to have a six-hour drive to St.
Louis and you did it before you went to the Parka Farm to
pick up the truck; isn't that true?
Norris: No, I don't think so.
brother, Luke, testified that Norris called him the morning
the accident happened. He thought Norris was playing a joke
on him about his thumb because he sounded drunk or drugged.
Eventually Luke realized that Norris was serious, so he
called National Transit Staffing and told them that Norris
wouldn't make his shift because he lost his thumb and
"they've got him on an IV and they are going ...