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Reed v. First Step, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

May 22, 2019

Teakqwanda REED, Appellant
FIRST STEP, INC., and ATA WC Trust/Risk Management Resources, Appellees

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         Carroll Law Firm, by: Shannon Muse Carroll, Hot Springs National Park, for appellant.

         Barber Law Firm PLLC, by: Karen H. McKinney, Little Rock, for appellees.


         MEREDITH B. SWITZER, Judge

          Teakqwanda Reed appeals the Workers’ Compensation Commission’s decision denying compensability of injuries she allegedly suffered on three different dates while employed by appellee First Step, Inc. First Step initially accepted Reed’s first two injuries as compensable but ultimately controverted those two incidents in their entirety; the third incident was always controverted. Reed contends substantial evidence does not support the Commission’s denial of compensability. We affirm in part and reverse and remand in part.

          I. Facts

         Reed alleged she injured her left shoulder and the left side of her neck on August 25, 2015, when she was lifting files out of a filing cabinet and felt a "pull" and "burning" on her left side from her neck and shoulder area down to her fingers. Dr. Mark Larey, who saw Reed on the date of the injury, diagnosed her with a sprain/strain of the neck and pain in her left arm. Although Dr. Larey’s exam revealed no swelling, bruising, or wound of Reed’s cervical spine, he noted a palpable spasm. Dr. Larey placed Reed on restricted duty and prescribed prednisone, Ultracet, and Flexeril. Dr. Larey saw Reed again on September 9, and he again noted a palpable spasm in Reed’s cervical region. Reed was prescribed Xanax and remained on restricted duty.

         A September 14 MRI of Reed’s cervical spine was normal, without evidence of spinal canal stenosis or neural foraminal narrowing. Dr. Larey examined Reed a third time on September 15; her symptoms remained unchanged, and Dr. Larey again noted a palpable spasm in her cervical spine. Reed was prescribed Voltaren, Flexeril, and acetaminophen with codeine, and she remained on restricted duty. Dr. Larey saw Reed again on October 1 and 19 and on November 9 and 23. He noted palpable spasms of Reed’s cervical spine at these visits and continued Reed on restricted duty. An electromyography and nerve conduction study (EMG) of Reed’s left shoulder was performed on November 25. According to Dr. Larey, the results were "well within normal limits."

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          Reed claimed her second injury occurred on December 16, 2015. As she was sitting in her chair filing papers in an accordion file on the floor, the chair came out from under her and she fell to the floor, hitting her right shoulder on her desk. According to Reed, when the chair flipped, it landed on her.

          Dr. Larey examined Reed the same day. He noted her complaints of continued pain in her left shoulder from the first incident, and she complained of pain in her cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine and in both shoulders due to the second injury. She also claimed that at the time of this injury, her left shoulder had not improved from the August 2015 incident. Dr. Larey noted that Reed was "diffusely tender" in the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine and in the shoulder-girdle regions, and she had decreased range of motion in her cervical spine and right shoulder. He diagnosed her with lumbar, thoracic, and cervical-spine strain in connection with her second injury. Reed remained on restricted duty.

         An MRI of Reed’s left shoulder was performed on January 14, 2016. The results of this MRI were "(1) degenerative changes of the acromioclavicular joint and findings suggesting impingement anatomy; (2) tendinosis of the supraspinatus tendon; and (3) degenerative changes humeral head." Dr. Larey examined Reed again on January 18, and although Reed continued to complain of pain and limited range of motion in her left arm and neck, Dr. Larey’s examination of her left shoulder, shoulder girdle, and cervical spine was unremarkable; no palpable spasm was noted. Reed also complained of pain in her lower right back, her right thoracic-spine region, and her right shoulder; however, Dr. Larey noted no swelling, bruising, wound, or spasms in any of these areas. Dr. Larey discharged Reed from his care and returned her to regular duty on January 18 with instructions to complete her physical-therapy regimen. A physical-therapy note dated February 19, 2016, the last day of Reed’s physical therapy, included a diagnosis of "right shoulder strain, lumbar strain with radiating right hip pain, spasms."

          Reed was subsequently seen for her right-shoulder pain by Dr. Shahryar Ahmadi on August 2. An MRI of Reed’s right shoulder, performed on August 23, revealed the following impressions:

(1) Findings suggestive of calcific tendinitis involving the infraspinatus tendons with increased signal within the infraspinatus and conjoined tendons which may be related to inflammatory changes from crystal deposition. Small ...

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