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Rodriguez-Gonzalez v. Jamestown Health and Rehab, LLC

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

November 13, 2019



          Tolley & Brooks, P.A., by: Evelyn E. Brooks, for appellant.

          Frye Law Firm, P.A., by: William C. Frye, for appellees.


         Alma Rodriguez-Gonzalez appeals the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission's (Commission's) decision finding that she failed to establish that she suffered a compensable injury while performing employment services for Jamestown Health and Rehab, LLC (Jamestown). On appeal, she argues that the Commission's decision is not supported by substantial evidence. We affirm.

         Rodriguez worked as a housekeeper for Jamestown. On June 9, 2017, she slipped and fell on a wet floor in the lobby. She injured her neck, right shoulder, right hip, right ankle, and right knee. Jamestown controverted the claim, and the case proceeded to a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ).

         At the hearing, Rodriguez testified that on June 9, 2017, she was picking up trash in the Jamestown lobby when she slipped and fell on a wet floor. She stated that at the time of her fall, she was helping an employee-in-training clean the lobby. She testified that she had her cleaning equipment with her. She further noted that at Jamestown, accidents frequently happen with the elderly residents and that she had to be on call at any time. She explained that if a resident or supervisor needed her help on her way to lunch, she would return to work to help them.

         She testified that after she fell, she continued working in her assigned Hall 300. She stated, however, that her pain worsened, so she sought medical attention. She noted that she then went to Elisa Castro, the human-resources officer, and filled out paperwork. She testified that Castro told her to take her lunch break and to go to the doctor. She stated that she had not had a break that day and did not eat lunch. She testified that she usually eats in the lunchroom. She stated that she has, on occasion, purchased her lunch in the cafeteria, but she also sometimes just brings a snack. On cross-examination, Rodriguez admitted that she had stated in a prior deposition that at the time of her fall, she was going to lunch and that her food was in her car.

         Carlos Chavez, the housekeeping supervisor, testified that employees have a thirty-minute lunch break and that if employees choose to leave the facility, they must clock out and then clock back in when they return. He explained that if employees remain at the facility, the employees can sit in their cars in the parking lot or they can eat in the lunchroom. He noted that thirty minutes is automatically deducted for lunch when they do not clock out.

         Chavez further testified that the facility has six halls and that housekeeping employees are assigned to clean two halls. He stated that a single housekeeping employee is assigned to clean the extra areas, which include the lobby and bathrooms. He testified that if Rodriguez is assigned Halls 300 and 400, she is not required to clean the lobby or any other areas. Chavez stated that he saw Rodriguez fall on June 9 and that she fell while she was walking toward the front door. He testified that she did not have her cleaning equipment with her and that he thought she was going to lunch. He noted that another employee was cleaning the lobby at the time.

         Castro, the human-resources officer, testified that Rodriguez reported that she injured herself and that she advised Rodriguez to complete a witness-statement form. She explained that Rodriguez did not know how to complete the form so she assisted her. Castro testified that Rodriguez indicated she was on her lunch break and that she slipped because the floor was wet. She noted that the form was completed in Spanish.

         Castro further testified that a surveillance camera recorded Rodriguez's fall. She stated that she watched the video that showed Rodriguez fall while walking toward the front door. She noted that Rodriguez did not have any cleaning equipment with her. She testified that the recording no longer exists because the system deletes footage after fifteen days. She believed that Rodriguez parked her car in the front parking lot.

         Following the hearing, the ALJ entered an order finding that Rodriguez had not established a compensable injury because she was not performing employment services at the time of her fall. The ALJ specifically found that Rodriguez was going to get her lunch. Rodriguez appealed the ALJ's decision to the Commission, and the Commission affirmed and adopted the ALJ's opinion. This appeal followed.

         Normally, we review only the decision of the Commission, not that of the ALJ. Queen v. Nortel Networks, Inc., 2012 Ark.App. 188. However, when, 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 and the Commission's opinions. 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 ...

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