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TJX Companies, Inc. v. Lopez

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

April 24, 2019

The TJX COMPANIES, INC., d/b/a T.J. Maxx, and American Zurich Insurance Company, Appellants
v.
Azzie LOPEZ, Employee Appellee

Page 231

          APPEAL FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO. G702856]

         Mayton, Newkirk & Jones, by: Rick Behring Jr., for appellants.

          One brief only.

         OPINION

         RITA W. GRUBER, Chief Judge

          Appellants, The TJX Companies, Inc., d/b/a T.J. Maxx and American Zurich Insurance Co., appeal a decision of the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission (Commission) finding that appellee Azzie Lopez sustained a compensable injury and awarding her medical and temporary total-disability (TTD) benefits. In this one-brief appeal, appellants contend that the Commission’s decision is not supported by substantial evidence. We affirm.

Page 232

          Azzie Lopez was sixty-eight years old at the time of the May 4, 2018 hearing before the administrative law judge. She began working for T.J. Maxx in 2009 and was a jewelry associate at the time of the March 24, 2017 incident at issue. Lopez was clocking in after lunch when she heard a page that there was a phone call for jewelry. When she was on the phone with the customer, she did not hear the code being entered on the door, and another employee came in with her children. Lopez testified that the children ran up against the heavy door and it "came back and hit her in the back." She reported the accident to her supervisors, including Sherry Holmes, who had been coming down the hall as the door was opening. Lopez completed an accident report and was directed to go to the emergency room with a claim number to take with her. After finishing her shift, Lopez was seen at St. Bernard’s Medical Center. According to the medical record, Lopez reported getting hit in the back by a door at work and having back pain. The record of the physical exam noted "Back: Mild midline tenderness in the L3-L5 area, no ecchymosis noted, no significant edema." Following an examination and x-ray, the physician’s impression was "Back contusion"; Lopez was prescribed medication and directed to follow up with her family physician, Dr. Hurst.

          Lopez saw Dr. Hurst on March 29, 2017. She testified that Dr. Hurst examined her and had her "stand up and do exercise." She explained that she was weak in her back and leg and that Dr. Hurst took her off work and referred her to physical therapy. In the medical record of the visit, Dr. Hurst noted,

I think it is okay for her to return to work. She is very reluctant to go to work. She states that she would like to try some physical therapy and some more time before she goes back to normal activities. We will put her in physical therapy and we will see her back in a week.

          Lopez testified that she notified her employer and was contacted by "workers’ comp" with arrangements for physical therapy at HealthSouth. A week after starting therapy, she was told by Valerie Wilkerson, a representative of the appellants, to stop treatment at HealthSouth and that Wilkerson would find a doctor for her. Lopez stated that she continued therapy when she did not hear from Wilkerson. She continued to see Dr. Hurst once a week for seven weeks. Wilkerson later told her to see Dr. Michael Lack along with a nurse case manager for an evaluation, which occurred on May 9, 2017. Lopez testified that Dr. Lack did not examine her but reviewed her records and an x-ray from the hospital. The medical record from the visit indicates that Dr. Lack did conduct a physical examination as it provided that Lopez could "stand on her heels and toes" and that Lopez "had no bruising or discoloration of the back." The medical record from the visit also states there was no "evidence of acute injury from getting hit in the back." According to Lopez, Dr. Lack told her she did not get hurt and could return to work without restrictions.

          Lopez called to inform "corporate" that Dr. Lack returned her to work, but "corporate" told her that Dr. Lack had not taken her off work and that she was still under the care of Dr. Hurst. Lopez saw Dr. Hurst on May 11, 2017, and was released to return to work on May 15.

         In addition to the testimony and medical evidence regarding the March 24 injury, there was also testimony and evidence introduced regarding Lopez’s prior back problems. At the hearing, Lopez acknowledged her prior back issues, which included taking ...


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