UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS AT PINE BLUFF AND PUBLIC EMPLOYEE CLAIMS DIVISION APPELLANTS
CARL HOPKINS APPELLEE
FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO.
H. Montgomery, for appellants.
Kenneth Olsen, for appellee.
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) and the Public
Employee Claims Division appeal from the March 1, 2018
opinion of the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission
(Commission) that determined appellee Carl Hopkins had
established a causal connection between his work-related
injury and the additional medical treatment rendered and that
appellee was entitled to additional temporary
total-disability benefits from January 24 through June 19,
2017. The Commission's opinion affirmed the opinion of
the administrative law judge (ALJ). On appeal, appellants
argue that the Commission's decision is not supported by
substantial evidence. We affirm.
April 8, 2016, appellee, then fifty-three years old, suffered
a compensable neck injury while transporting components of a
large stage from the school gym to the convention center at
UAPB. He explained that he reached over to grab a smaller
stage that was rolling off the sidewalk, was pushed down, and
felt a pop in his neck. He did not report the injury that
day. Id. Once he developed left-arm and shoulder
pain that became unbearable, he reported the incident on
April 19, 2016, and was instructed to see a doctor at Health
Care Plus where he eventually came under the care of Dr.
Seale recommended against surgical intervention and treated
appellee conservatively with epidural injections and physical
therapy until he was released on November 23, 2016, with a
zero percent impairment rating. Appellee had been receiving
temporary total-disability benefits until his healing period
ended in November. In December 2016, Dr. Seale referred
appellee for a functional capacity evaluation. The result
revealed that appellee put forth a reliable effort throughout
the evaluation and that he could perform work only in the
remained symptomatic and sought additional medical treatment.
His primary-care physician recommended that he see
neurosurgeon Dr. Brad Thomas. On January 12, 2017, Dr. Thomas
conducted an x-ray and opined that appellee was not a
surgical candidate, but he ordered an MRI and excused
appellee from work. A January 20, 2017 MRI revealed
multilevel degenerative disc disease with multilevel severe
bilateral neural foraminal narrowing and moderate canal
narrowing at C5-C6. After reviewing the MRI and because
conservative treatment had failed under Dr. Seale's care,
Dr. Thomas recommended surgery. Following the MRI, Dr. Thomas
excused appellee from work from January 24 to April 14, 2017.
Appellee underwent surgery on March 2, 2017. Appellee
testified at the administrative hearing that following
surgery, he felt a lot better and "without that surgery
. . . [he] wouldn't have made it." He reported that
the shooting type of pain had improved but that he now
suffers from weakness, aching, and numbness. After surgery,
Dr. Thomas extended appellee's off-work status until May
30, 2017, and per appellee's testimony, he returned to
work on June 19, 2017.
conducted a hearing on July 14, 2017, and appellee contended
that he was entitled to additional medical treatment,
temporary total-disability benefits, and attorney's fees.
The ALJ first found that appellants were not responsible for
medical expenses incurred through Dr. Thomas because appellee
did not receive permission to change physicians from either
appellants or the Commission. Next, the ALJ awarded an
additional period of temporary total disability from January
24 through June 19, 2017. On March 1, 2018, the Commission
affirmed and adopted the opinion of the ALJ.
law permits the Commission to adopt the ALJ's opinion.
White v. Butterball, LLC, 2018 Ark.App. 7, at 4, 538
S.W.3d 240, 242. When the Commission adopts the ALJ's
opinion, it makes the ALJ's findings and conclusions its
findings and conclusions, and for the purpose of appellate
review, we consider both the ALJ's opinion and the
Commission's majority opinion. Id.
timely appealed the Commission's decision, arguing that
substantial evidence did not support its finding that there
was a causal connection between appellee's work-related
injury and the treatment rendered by Dr. Thomas. Appellants
also argue that substantial evidence did not support the
Commission's finding that appellee was entitled to
additional temporary total disability.
standard of review in workers'-compensation cases is well
settled. On appeal, this court views the evidence in the
light most favorable to the Commission's decision and
affirms the decision if it is supported by substantial
evidence. Schall v. Univ. of Ark. for Med. Scis.,
2017 Ark.App. 50, at 2, 510 S.W.3d 302, 303. Substantial
evidence exists if reasonable minds could reach the
Commission's conclusion. Id. The issue is not
whether the appellate court might have reached a different
result from the Commission but whether reasonable minds could
reach the result found by the Commission; if so, the
appellate court must affirm. Id.
to the first point on appeal, the Commission found that
"Dr. Thomas' opinion is entitled to greater weight
as surgery revealed disc protrusions with nerve root
compression," which was consistent with the radiology
and EMG/NEV reports. The opinion noted the following:
There is some difference of opinion between the radiologist
and Dr. Seale with regard to bulging versus herniated discs,
and there is a difference of opinion between Dr. Seale and
Dr. Thomas as to whether or not the claimant was a candidate
for surgery. But the evidence of record shows the claimant
was able to work for the respondent-employer for nine (9)
years with no history of limitations, absences from work, or
medical treatment for his neck or shoulder until the incident
at work on April 8, 2016. Dr. Thomas' surgery was also
helpful in improving the claimant's pain. The claimant
has made a good faith effort to return to work after his
release by Dr. Seale and by Dr. Thomas. He also performed
reliably on the Functional Capacity ...