LAVACA SCHOOL DISTRICT AND ARKANSAS SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION APPELLANTS
PAT HATFIELD APPELLEE
FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO.
Ledbetter, Cogbill, Arnold & Harrison, LLP, by: James A.
Arnold II and Victor L. Crowell, for appellants.
Walker, Shock & Harp, PLLC, by: Eddie H. Walker, Jr., for
D. VAUGHT, JUDGE.
Lavaca School District and Arkansas School Boards Association
(collectively "the district") appeal the Arkansas
Workers' Compensation Commission's (Commission)
decision reversing the decision of the administrative law
judge (ALJ) who denied appellee Pat Hatfield's request
for additional medical benefits. While the ALJ concluded that
Hatfield's claim was barred by the statute of
limitations, the Commission disagreed and found that she had
received reasonable and necessary medical treatments that
tolled the statute of limitations. This factual finding is
supported by substantial evidence, so we affirm the
was employed by the district when she first sustained an
undisputedly compensable injury to her right knee as a result
of falling in the bathroom on April 11, 2014. Hatfield filed
for workers'-compensation benefits on October 3, 2014,
and the district subsequently paid for medical treatment,
had what she called a "flare up" with her right
knee in July 2015 and received medical treatment until
December 29, 2015 when her treating physician, Dr. Trent
Johnson, released her to work with no restrictions. On March
14, 2016, Lavaca School District's attorney emailed
Hatfield's attorney and Dr. Johnson, advising them that
Hatfield must request and receive advance authorization for
any additional medical treatment related to her knee injury.
Hatfield was then treated by Dr. Johnson, without requesting
or obtaining advanced authorization, on May 6 and June 21,
2016. At both of these appointments, Hatfield complained of
pain in her right leg, shooting down from her back and hip.
She was prescribed physical therapy for her back and given an
injection in her hip. On April 27, 2017, Hatfield was again
seen by Dr. Johnson, without advance authorization, for
problems specifically related to her right knee. The district
did not pay for any of the three treatments for which
Hatfield failed to obtain prior approval.
March 1, 2018, Hatfield filed a claim for additional medical
benefits for her right knee stemming from her compensable
injury. Although the district initially claimed to have
provided all reasonable and necessary treatment up to and
through June 21, 2016, it later revised its position and
asserted that the last benefits that had been paid on
Hatfield's claim were in December 2015, which would make
her claim for additional benefits time-barred under the
applicable statute of limitations.
agreed with the district, concluding that Hatfield's
claim for additional benefits was time-barred. Hatfield
appealed to the Commission, which found that Hatfield had
received periodic medical treatment that was reasonable and
necessary to treat her compensable injury and that the
statute of limitations was therefore tolled. The Commission
reversed the ALJ's decision, and this appeal followed.
extent that the issue before us includes pure questions of
law, we review such issues de novo. Stewart v. Ark. Glass
Container, 2010 Ark. 198, at 6–7, 366 S.W.3d 358,
361– 62. It is for this court to decide what a statute
means, and we are not bound by the Commission's
interpretation and application of the statute. Id.
Regarding findings of fact, however, we view the evidence and
all reasonable inferences deducible therefrom in the light
most favorable to the Commission's findings, and we
affirm if the decision is supported by substantial evidence.
Graves v. Hopper, 2018 Ark. App. 193, at 11, 547
S.W.3d 448, 454. Substantial evidence exists if reasonable
minds could reach the Commission's conclusion.
Id. We will not reverse the Commission's
decision unless fair-minded persons with the same facts
before them could not have reached the Commission's
conclusions. Id. The issue is not whether we might
have reached a different result or whether the evidence would
have supported a contrary finding. Id. Questions of
weight and credibility are within the sole province of the
Commission, which is not required to believe the testimony of
the claimant or of any other witness but may accept and
translate into findings of fact only those portions of the
testimony it deems worthy of belief. Id. Once the
Commission has made its decision on issues of credibility,
the appellate court is bound by that decision. Id.
only issue before us is whether Hatfield's March 5, 2018
application for additional medical benefits is barred by
Arkansas Code Annotated section 11-9-702(b), which states in
(b) Time for Filing Additional Compensation.
( 1) In cases in which any compensation, including disability
or medical, has been paid on account of injury, a claim for
additional compensation shall be barred unless filed with the
commission within one (1) year from the date of the last
payment of compensation or two (2) years from the date of the
injury, whichever is greater.
(c) A claim for additional compensation must specifically
state that it is a claim for additional compensation.
Documents which do not specifically request additional
benefits shall not be ...