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Macsteel v. Hindmarsh

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

October 16, 2019



          Dover Dixon Horne PLLC, by: Joseph H. Purvis and Monte D. Estes, for appellants.

          Medlock and Gramlich, LLP, by: M. Jered Medlock, for appellee.



         Appellant Gerdau Macsteel ("Macsteel") appeals the decision of the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission) that determined appellee Jason Hindmarsh proved his entitlement to additional medical treatment and awarded him temporary-total disability (TTD) benefits. Macsteel argues that the Commission's decision was not supported by substantial evidence. We affirm.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Hindmarsh sustained an admittedly compensable lower-back injury in April 2015 while doing physical inventory for Macsteel. Hindmarsh received conservative treatment for his injury without positive results. He underwent a lumbar MRI scan in August 2015 and a similar MRI in November. Both scans indicated no disc bulges or protrusions and showed "no definite lumbar spine abnormality." Hindmarsh continued to experience lower-back pain and eventually saw Dr. Kyle Mangels.[1] Dr. Mangels ordered another MRI, which was "read as being unremarkable" by Dr. Matthew Powers. Dr. Mangels also described the MRI findings as "basically negative." Nevertheless, because of Hindmarsh's complaints of unexplained pain, Dr. Mangels thought a discogram was warranted.[2]

         Dr. Andrew Revelis performed the discogram of Hindmarsh's lumbar spine. He reported that the L4-5 disc had a normal retention of contrast within the nucleus of the disc, indicating a "normal nonpainful disc." Regarding the L5-S1 disc, however, Dr. Revelis opined that the disc was "unable to achieve a maximum pressure," which indicated "annular degeneration . . . with extravasation[3] of contrast into the outer third of the annulus and the left periannular space." Hindmarsh also reported concordant pain when the disc was injected that was consistent with the pain he usually experienced. Dr. Revelis's impressions were that L4-5 was a normal, nonpainful disc, but L5-S1 was a "painful, concordant degenerated disc." Dr. Revelis then sent Hindmarsh to Dr. Powers for a postdiscogram CT scan. Dr. Powers's report of the CT scan showed no abnormalities, however, and his review of the L5-S1 discogram found "an intranuclear injection of contrast material without evidence of posterior annular tear."

         After the discogram and CT scan, Hindmarsh followed up with Dr. Mangels. Dr. Mangels reviewed the films, including the postdiscogram CT, and opined that Hindmarsh had disc disease at the L5-S1 level. He advised Hindmarsh about surgical options, including a posterior lumbar fusion, and Hindmarsh expressed a desire to consider surgery. Macsteel denied the requested surgical treatment, and Hindmarsh filed his workers'-compensation claim seeking approval for the requested treatment as well as TTD benefits.

         Hindmarsh's claim proceeded to a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), who found that Hindmarsh had proved his entitlement to additional medical treatment in the form of the surgery recommended by Dr. Mangels. The ALJ also found that Hindmarsh had demonstrated his entitlement to TTD benefits from November 15, 2017 through a date to be determined. The Commission affirmed and adopted this decision in a 2-1 opinion. Macsteel timely appealed.

         II. Standard of Review

         Normally, we review only the decision of the Commission, not that of the ALJ. Queen v. Nortel Networks, Inc., 2012 Ark.App. 188, at 3. When, however, as here, the Commission affirms and adopts the ALJ's opinion, thereby making the findings and conclusions of the ALJ the Commission's findings and conclusions, our court considers both the ALJ's opinion and the Commission's opinion. Mercy Hosp. Fort Smith v. Hendley, 2015 Ark.App. 527.

         Our court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commission's decision and affirms the decision if it is supported by substantial evidence. Baxter Reg'l Med. Ctr. v. Ferris, 2018 Ark.App. 625, 565 S.W.3d 149. Substantial evidence exists if reasonable minds could reach the Commission's conclusion. Id. The issue is not whether the appellate court might have reached a different result from the Commission, but whether ...

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