Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Divisions I, II, IV
LONOKE EXCEPTIONAL SCHOOL, INC., AND RISK MANAGEMENT RESOURCES APPELLANTS
DON COFFMAN APPELLEE
FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO.
Law Firm PLLC, by: Karen H. McKinney, for appellants.
Beth York, for appellee.
RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, JUDGE
an appeal from the Workers' Compensation Commission's
(the Commission's) decision awarding benefits to Don
Coffman. On appeal, Lonoke Exceptional School, Inc. (Lonoke
School), argues that the Commission (1) arbitrarily
disregarded medical evidence and (2) erred in finding that
Coffman established that he sustained a compensable injury
supported by objective findings. We affirm.
works as a bus driver for Lonoke School. On April 6, 2017,
Coffman fell in a gravel parking lot and injured his left
shoulder. Lonoke School initially accepted the claim as
compensable and began paying benefits; however, after Coffman
sought expenses for surgery, Lonoke School denied liability.
The case proceeded to a hearing before an administrative law
hearing, Coffman testified that after he fell on April 6, he
immediately reported the injury and that Lonoke School sent
him to North Cabot Family Medicine. He was referred to Dr.
Stewart, an orthopedic surgeon, and he had an MRI. The MRI
showed a tear in his left shoulder; consequently, he had
surgery, specifically a reverse shoulder arthroplasty.
Coffman testified that he did not have any problems with his
left shoulder before the accident. He noted that he had just
passed a physical examination for the Department of
Transportation on March 27, 2017. He admitted that he had
injured his right shoulder in 2012 and that he had a
procedure on October 30, 2012, for that injury. Coffman
stated that he wanted to return to work as soon as his doctor
records from North Cabot Family Medicine on the day of the
accident show that Coffman reported left-shoulder pain and
left-knee pain and had abrasions on both hands. The
physician's diagnosis included "sprain of left
shoulder joint." Dr. Stewart's records from
Coffman's examination on April 19, 2017, reflect that
Coffman "is here with a new problem with the left
shoulder. Two weeks ago he had a fall at work and injured his
shoulder . . . . He says before this he did not have a
shoulder problem." In Dr. Stewart's report following
Coffman's MRI, he opined that the findings "do not
correlate with an injury that occurred on April 6, 2017.
These are very old, chronic problems, and to fix this a
reverse shoulder arthroplasty is needed, just like the
opposite side needed 5 years ago."
denied Coffman benefits. Coffman appealed, and the Commission
reversed, finding that Coffman sustained a compensable injury
to his left shoulder. The Commission rejected Dr.
Stewart's medical opinion. The Commission stated:
The Full Commission recognizes Dr. Stewart's opinion
regarding these demonstrated post-injury abnormalities . . .
. The Full Commission in the present matter rejects Dr.
Stewart's opinion that the claimant's objective
medical findings "do not correlate with the injury that
occurred on April 6, 2017." To the contrary, none of the
tears in the tendon of the claimant's left shoulder were
shown to be present before the stipulated April 6, 2017
Commission further found that the injury was supported by
objective findings, namely the abnormalities in the MRI.
Lonoke School appealed the Commission's decision to this
appeal, Lonoke School first argues that the Commission
arbitrarily rejected Dr. Stewart's medical opinion. It
points out that Coffman did not introduce any medical
evidence to contest Dr. Stewart's opinion and asserts
that the Commission substituted its opinion in lieu of Dr.
Commission has the authority to accept or reject medical
opinions and its resolution of the medical evidence has the
force and effect of a jury verdict. Coleman v. Pro
Transp., Inc., 97 Ark.App. 338, 249 S.W.3d 149 (2007).
The Commission, however, may not arbitrarily disregard
medical evidence. Pyle v. Woodfield, Inc., 2009
Ark.App. 251, 306 S.W.3d 455. In order for an administrative
action to be invalid as arbitrary, the action must either
lack any rational basis or hinge on a finding of fact based
on an erroneous view of the law. Pine Bluff for Safe
Disposal v. Ark. Pollution Control & Ecology
Comm'n, 354 Ark. 563, 127 S.W.3d 509 (2003);
Ark. Prof'l Bail Bondsman Licensing Bd. v.
Oudin, 348 Ark. 48, 69 S.W.3d 855 (2002). An arbitrary
act is thus an illegal or unreasoned act; an act is not
arbitrary simply because the reviewing court would have acted
differently. Woodyard v. Ark. Diversified Ins.
Co., 268 Ark. 94, 594 S.W.2d 13 (1980). In
workers'-compensation cases, arbitrary disregard of
evidence is demonstrated when the Commission affirmatively
states that there is "no evidence" for a
proposition when such evidence has, in fact, been presented
in the proceeding. See Edens v. Superior Marble &
Glass, 346 Ark. 487, 58 S.W.3d 369 (2001). Arbitrary
disregard has been described as follows:
The Commission cannot disbelieve the testimony of a witness
for an irrational or whimsical reason; for example, it cannot
decide a case on the rationale that witnesses with names
beginning in vowels are never credible, or that foreign-born
doctors always offer more ...