FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO.
& Wells, PLLC, by: Phillip Wells, for appellant.
Bassett Law Firm LLP, by: Curtis L. Nebben, for appellees.
LARRYD. VAUGHT, Judge.
Webb appeals the opinion of the Arkansas Workers'
Compensation Commission (Commission) finding that she failed
to prove that she sustained a compensable low-back injury
while in the course and scope of her employment with Wal-Mart
Associates, Inc. (Wal-Mart). On appeal, Webb contends that
the Commission's opinion is not supported by substantial
evidence. We affirm.
November 9, 2015, Webb, a Wal-Mart department manager, was
working on a ladder when she fell six feet to the floor. She
suffered a significant fracture injury to her left tibia that
required four surgeries. Wal-Mart accepted Webb's leg
injury as compensable and paid all benefits related to the
still receiving medical treatment for her left-leg injury,
Webb first sought medical treatment for low-back complaints
on January 21, 2016. She sought additional medical treatment
for low-back pain on January 25 and 27, 2016; July 21, 2016;
and October 18, 2016. Webb eventually requested a referral to
neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Abraham, who had performed L4-5 back
surgery on Webb in 2013. Dr. Abraham saw Webb on December 19,
2016, and his note of that date states that she presented
with low-back and left-leg pain caused by a fall off a
six-foot ladder at work. He recommended an MRI, which was
performed on January 20, 2017. Webb returned to Dr. Abraham
on February 1, 2017, and in that report Dr. Abraham states
that the MRI showed interspace narrowing with minimal post-op
changes on the left side at L4-5 with what appeared to be a
recurrent disc herniation. He recommended an L4-5
decompressive lumbar laminectomy.
Wal-Mart's request, Dr. Carlos Roman of Southern Regional
Anesthesiology Consultants, PLLC, performed an independent
medical evaluation (IME) on Webb on February 3, 2017. Dr.
Roman's IME report concluded that Webb's back
"injury is not related to the fall in that she had a
pre-existing condition of back pain and degenerative disc
disease, thus, the back surgery in 2013."
February 16, 2017, Dr. Abraham performed an L4-5
decompressive lumbar laminectomy. The following day, Dr.
Abraham opined that Webb's November 9, 2015 fall
aggravated her preexisting back condition. When Webb sought
additional medical treatment and temporary total-disability
benefits for her low-back injury, Wal-Mart controverted her
claim, contending that the low-back injury did not arise out
of her November 9, 2015 fall.
hearing before the administrative law judge (ALJ), Webb, who
was forty-eight years old at the time, testified that
following her back surgery in 2013, she missed only six weeks
of work and felt "wonderful." She stated that
before her 2015 fall at Wal-Mart, she did not have any back
discomfort or pain; she did not take any medicine or
prescriptions for her back; and she did not miss any time
from work because of back pain.
also testified about her fall from the ladder at work, the
significant injury she sustained to her left leg, and the
extensive medical treatment she received for her leg injury.
She stated that she first noted discomfort in her back while
she was in the hospital receiving treatment for her leg. At
that time, she believed the back discomfort was due to being
bedbound. She said that on January 21, 2016, she turned over
in bed at home and experienced "a huge pain" in her
low back that made her scream and cry. She stated that she
went to the emergency room that day and was eventually seen
by Dr. Abraham. Webb said that Dr. Abraham performed L4-5
surgery in February 2017, and she has not been released from
his care. Webb testified that the pain medication she took
for her leg may have masked her back injury.
Abraham testified, via deposition, that when Webb first
presented in 2016, she told him that she had been suffering
low-back pain since her November 2015 fall. Based on that
history, it was his opinion that the fall aggravated her
preexisting low-back injury and caused a recurrent disc
herniation. When advised that Webb's low-back complaints
did not arise until three months after the fall, Dr. Abraham
testified that he could not state when the recurrent disc
herniation occurred. However, he stated that it was his
opinion that because Webb had very few low-back symptoms
prior to November 2015 and the fall from the ladder involved
significant force, the recurrent disc herniation at L4-5 was
more likely than not caused by the fall rather than simply
turning over in bed.
issued an opinion on October 10, 2017, finding that Webb
suffered a compensable aggravation of a preexisting low-back
injury as a result of the November 9, 2015 fall while working
for Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart appealed, and on April 24, 2018, the
Commission reversed the ALJ's decision, finding that Webb
did not sustain a low-back injury when she fell from the
ladder on November 9, 2015. The Commission found that Webb
suffered from a preexisting low-back injury; there were no
reports of a low-back injury immediately following her fall
or for three months thereafter; when she initially reported
her back complaints, she did not relate them to the November
fall; she inaccurately reported to Dr. Abraham that she had
been suffering from low-back pain since she fell, and thus,
she lacked credibility; Dr. Abraham's opinion was based
on Webb's inaccurate history and was entitled to no
credit; and the IME finding that the back injury was not
related to the November 2015 fall was credible. This appeal,
challenging the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the
Commission's opinion, followed.
appeals involving claims for workers' compensation, our
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. Grothaus v. Vista
Health, L.L.C., 2011 Ark.App. 130, at 6, 382 S.W.3d 1,
5. Substantial evidence exists if reasonable minds could
reach the Commission's conclusion. Id., 382
S.W.3d at 5. 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. Id. at
6-7, 382 S.W.3d at 5. When the Commission denies a claim
because of the claimant's failure to meet his or her
burden of ...