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Farris v. Express Services, Inc.

Supreme Court of Arkansas

May 9, 2019



          Goldberg & Dohan, by: Andy L. Caldwell, for appellant.

          Worley, Wood & Parrish, P.A., by: Melissa Wood, for appellee.


         Appellant Walter Farris appeals an Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission's decision adopting the finding of the administrative law judge (ALJ) that his additional-benefits claim was barred by the statute of limitations. For reversal, Farris argues that the Commission's decision was not supported by substantial evidence. We affirm the Commission's finding and vacate the opinion of the court of appeals.

         I. Facts

         On May 12, 2014, Farris was injured on the job when a crane fell on him. He sustained injuries to his head, neck, and left shoulder. Appellee Express Services, Inc., a temporary employment agency that employed Farris, paid benefits for his injury claim.[1] Farris received medical treatment from Dr. Ron Schechter until he was released to full duty on April 28, 2015. Express Services paid the fee associated with the April 28 visit.

         On May 5, 2016, approximately two years after he was injured, Farris submitted a Form AR-C for additional benefits. On the form, he incorrectly named Great Dane Trailers as his employer. Express Services had assigned Farris to a Great Dane location, but he worked for the temporary agency. Farris later realized his mistake, and on May 13, he filed an amended Form AR-C, dated May 12, and correctly named Express Services as his employer.

         The ALJ conducted a hearing on Farris's entitlement to additional workers'-compensation benefits and found that his claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The Commission affirmed and adopted the ALJ's findings. Farris appealed to the Arkansas Court of Appeals. Relying on Dillard v. Benton County Sheriff's Office, 87 Ark.App. 379, 192 S.W.3d 287 (2004), the court of appeals held that Farris's mistake on his claim form for additional benefits was "a mistake as to form and not as to substance." Farris v. Express Servs., Inc., 2018 Ark.App. 189, at 4, 546 S.W.3d 530, 532. The court of appeals concluded that the statute of limitations had tolled and reversed and remanded to the Commission. Id., 546 S.W.3d at 532. Express Services petitioned this court for review, and we granted the petition. When we grant a petition for review, we consider the appeal as though it had originally been filed in this court. Lawson v. Simmons Sporting Goods, Inc., 2019 Ark. 84___, S.W.3d___ .

         II. Law and Analysis

          For his sole point on appeal, Farris argues that substantial evidence does not support the Commission's decision. Specifically, Farris contends that he timely filed his first additional-benefits form on May 5, 2016, and that his mistake of naming the wrong employer should not bar his claim.

         When reviewing a decision of the Commission, we view the evidence and all reasonable inferences deducible therefrom in the light most favorable to the findings of the Commission and affirm that decision if it is supported by substantial evidence. Crudup v. Regal Ware, Inc., 341 Ark. 804, 20 S.W.3d 900 (2000). Substantial evidence exists if fair-minded persons could reach the same conclusion when considering the same facts. Id., 20 S.W.3d 900. The issue is not whether the appellate court might have reached a different result from the Commission, but rather whether reasonable minds could reach the result found by the Commission. Wallace v. W. Fraser South, Inc., 365 Ark. 68, 225 S.W.3d 361 (2006). If so, the appellate court must affirm the Commission's decision. Id., 225 S.W.3d 361.

         Further, we review issues of statutory construction de novo because it is this court's duty to decide what a statute means. Johnson v. Bonds Fertilizer, Inc., 365 Ark. 133, 226 S.W.3d 753 (2006). The first rule in considering the meaning and effect of a statute is to construe it just as it reads, giving the words their ordinary meaning and usually accepted meaning in common language. Id., 226 S.W.3d 753. We construe the statute so that no word is left void, superfluous, or insignificant; and meaning and effect are given to every word in the statute if possible. Id., 226 S.W.3d 753. When the language of the statute is plain and unambiguous, there is no need to resort to rules of statutory construction. Id., 226 S.W.3d 753. When the meaning is not clear, we look to the language of the statute, the subject matter, the object to be accomplished, the purpose to be served, the remedy provided, the legislative history, and other appropriate means that shed light on the subject. Id., 226 S.W.3d 753.

         Arkansas Code Annotated section 11-9-702 (Repl. 2012) governs the statute of limitations for additional ...

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