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White County Judge v. Menser

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

May 9, 2018

WHITE COUNTY JUDGE AND THE ASSOCIATION OF ARKANSAS COUNTIES RISK MANAGEMENT SERVICES APPELLANTS
v.
BRUCE MENSER APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO. G309930]

          Jason M. Ryburn, for appellants.

          Gary Davis, for appellee.

          N. MARK KLAPPENBACH, JUDGE.

         The White County Judge and the Association of Arkansas Counties Risk Management Services appeal from a decision of the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission) awarding Bruce Menser reasonable and necessary medical treatment. Appellants contend that Menser's claim is barred by the statute of limitations and that substantial evidence does not support a finding that his injuries are compensable. We reverse and remand.

         Menser was working as a patrol deputy for the White County Sheriff's Office on December 16, 2013, when he alleges he was injured due to exposure to fumes from his patrol car's battery. Appellants initially accepted the injury as compensable and paid benefits but later controverted it in its entirety. A hearing was held before the administrative law judge (ALJ) in April 2017 on the issues of the statute of limitations, compensability, and reasonable and necessary medical treatment; other issues were reserved. Menser presented evidence that the battery in his patrol car exploded on the night in question and that the exposure to fumes inside the car caused a myriad of injuries. He was eventually treated by Dr. David Silas, a neurologist, who diagnosed him with a seizure disorder and neuropathy. Dr. Silas opined that Menser's conditions were caused by his inhalation of the battery fumes. Appellants submitted the report of Dr. Henry Simmons, who opined after reviewing Menser's medical records and deposition that Menser had not suffered a toxicological injury.

         The Commission, which affirmed and adopted the decision of the ALJ, found that Menser's claim was not barred by the statute of limitations, that he had sustained compensable injuries in the form of a brain injury and neuropathy, and that he was entitled to reasonable and necessary medical treatment for these injuries. The Commission found that he had not proved compensable injuries with regard to the evidence of fibromyalgia, joint pain, a pulmonary injury, anxiety, or memory loss and confusion.

         We first address appellants' contention that Menser's claim is barred by the statute of limitations. When reviewing decisions from the Commission, this court views the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the Commission's findings and will affirm the decision if the findings are supported by substantial evidence. Barnes v. Fort Smith Pub. Schs., 95 Ark.App. 248, 235 S.W.3d 905 (2006). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Id.

         The issue is whether Menser timely filed a claim for additional medical benefits. It is the claimant's burden to prove that he or she acted within the time allowed for filing a claim for additional compensation. Stewart v. Ark. Glass Container, 2010 Ark. 198, 366 S.W.3d 358. Arkansas Code Annotated section 11-9-702 sets forth the following limitations:

(b) Time for filing additional compensation.
(1) In cases in which any compensation, including disability or medical, has been paid on account of injury, a claim for additional compensation shall be barred unless filed with the commission within one (1) year from the date of the last payment of compensation or two (2) years from the date of the injury, whichever is greater.
. . . .
(c) A claim for additional compensation must specifically state that it is a claim for additional compensation. Documents which do not specifically request additional benefits shall not be ...

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