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Clark v. Williamson G.C., Inc.

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

May 30, 2018

JEFF CLARK APPELLANT
v.
WILLIAMSON G.C., INC., AND CNA INSURANCE CO. APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO. G602955]

          Mickel & Chapman, by: Thomas W. Mickel and Brooklyn R. Parker, for appellant.

          Barber Law Firm, PLLC, by: Frank Newell and Breana Ott Mackey, for appellees.

          BART F. VIRDEN, Judge

         Jeff Clark appeals the Workers' Compensation Commission's ("the Commission") decision finding that he failed to prove that he sustained a specific-incident compensable injury while working for Williamson G.C., Inc. ("Williamson"). On appeal, Clark argues that the Commission's finding is not supported by substantial evidence. We affirm.

         On March 8, 2016, Clark was working as a welder for Williamson when he claimed he injured his right elbow while on the job. Clark filed a compensation claim. After initially accepting liability, Williamson controverted the claim in its entirety and denied that Clark was entitled to further medical benefits and temporary total-disability benefits. The case proceeded to a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ").

         At the hearing, Clark testified that he was working at Williamson the morning of March 8, 2016, when he was injured. Clark explained that he reached for his "heli-arc rig" after he had finished welding, and when he pulled it toward him, he felt a "pop" at the top of his right elbow. Clark testified that after lunch he reported the incident to the safety manager who told him to "wait a couple of days and see how it was and let him know." Clark testified that later that day he told the safety manager that his elbow still hurt, but his employer refused to send him to a doctor. The next day, Clark went to see his primary-care physician, Dr. Robert Woodrome. Clark testified that he told Dr. Woodrome about the injury and that he also told the doctor about his arthritis and the chronic pain in his lower back and ankle. Dr. Woodrome did not prescribe any treatment for Clark's elbow, but Clark testified that Dr. Woodrome told him he needed to apply for workers' compensation. Clark testified that he continued to work despite the pain, which was bad enough that it kept him from sleeping. Dr. Woodrome's progress notes showed that Clark's chief complaints were hypertension, chronic pain, enlarged prostate, and arthritis. There was no notation in Dr. Woodrome's notes that Clark was there to discuss or receive treatment related to an injury to his elbow, and under the "musculoskeletal" heading, Dr. Woodrome noted Clark's back pain and arthritis-related pain and that Clark denied carpal tunnel syndrome, joint stiffness, leg cramps, and muscle aches and spasms. Dr. Woodrome assessed that Clark suffered from hypertension, chronic fatigue, osteoarthritis, and an enlarged prostate.

         Clark recounted that on April 11, 2016, he was examined by orthopedic physician Dr. Daniel Fuentes and that he told Dr. Fuentes about the injury to his elbow. Clark stated that Dr. Fuentes did not prescribe any treatment or perform any treatment in the office. The physician's notes show that Clark was there for a follow-up visit regarding right-arm pain that he claimed resulted from a work-related injury. The notes show that Clark had pain and "fullness" near the lateral epicondyle, and Dr. Fuentes recorded that his impression of the complaint was "acute on chronic right elbow pain with history of lateral epicondylitis."[1]

         Clark testified that in May he was examined by Dr. Pavan Pinnamaneni, a family doctor he had seen before, who gave him medication for the pain in his arm. Dr. Pinnamaneni's notes and the medical records show that Clark's arm pain had begun five years earlier, that he had been diagnosed with lateral epicondylitis, and that treatment for his condition had begun in 2014. Dr. Pinnamaneni observed that Clark's right lateral epicondyle was tender. Clark saw Dr. Pinnamaneni again two weeks later, and the physician's notes showed that the onset of Clark's right-elbow pain had been five years earlier and that Clark had been treated with heat therapy and pain medication.

         On June 9, 2016, Clark was examined by Dr. Bill Mathias, who noted that Clark reported he suffered an injury to his right elbow on March 8, 2016, and that though there was no swelling, erythema, or warmth in the area, Clark claimed to have increased pain. Dr. Mathias ordered an MRI and assessed the results as follows:

Slightly increased signal intensity is present within the common extensor tendon adjacent to its lateral humeral epicondyle insertion. No tendon retraction is evident. Increased signal intensity is present within the common flexor tendon adjacent to its medial humeral epicondyle insertion. No tendon retraction is evident.
1.Work-related injury 3-8-16.
2.Right distal bicep tendon strain.
3.Probable non-displaced avulsion injury of the right distal biceps tendon insertion in to ...

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