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University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences v. Hines

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

December 4, 2019

UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS FOR MEDICAL SCIENCES and Public Employee Claims Division, Appellants
v.
Patricia HINES, Appellee

          Rehearing Denied January 15, 2020

          APPEAL FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO. G802238]

         Robert H. Montgomery, for appellants.

         Moore, Giles & Matteson, L.L.P., by: Greg Giles, for appellee.

         OPINION

         RITA W. GRUBER, Chief Judge

Page 184

          Appellants University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and the Public Employee Claims Division appeal a decision of the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission awarding appellee Patricia Hines benefits for an injury to her left knee. For reversal, appellants contend that the Commission erred in finding that Hines was performing employment services at the time she was injured. We affirm.

         On March 28, 2018, Hines slipped and fell at work resulting in a left-patella fracture, which required surgical repair.[1] Following her injury, Hines filed a claim for workers’-compensation benefits. Appellants controverted the claim in its entirety, alleging that Hines was not performing employment services at the time of the accident. A hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) took place on October 24, 2018. Hines was the only witness to testify.

         Hines testified that she worked for UAMS as a surgical-services patient-unit coordinator. She worked from the front desk of the unit and was responsible for scheduling, coordinating, and staffing the department’s thirty-two surgical rooms. Her normal shift was from 2:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. She was required to clock in at the beginning of her shift and clock out when it was over. Hines stated she had had two fifteen-minute breaks and a thirty-minute lunch break.[2] Her breaks were not scheduled. She explained, "Because of the nature of my position at the front desk, there is no scheduled time because there’s cases and there’s emergencies and there’s traumas, so I have to fit in a break where I can, if I can." She usually combined her break with her lunch to take just one break.

          On the day of her accident, Hines took her break at approximately 6:30 p.m. She left her second-floor work area and rode the elevator down to the first floor. When she exited the elevator, she answered a phone call from her granddaughter. She had taken approximately ten to fifteen steps when she slipped and fell. Hines testified that when she was taking her break she was not headed to any specific place. She often took her break in the lobby because it was sunny, and she enjoyed the piano. Hines said that she generally used her break to get away from her department and to take care of things she couldn’t handle while she was at work, such as calling family members. She explained that she worked in a "very stressful department" and that breaks were necessary to refresh and return with more energy and better performance.

          Hines testified that she did not clock out during her breaks and was still on duty. She explained there are emergencies and traumas at any time and that she is the only unit coordinator on that shift. If there was an emergency, the head nurse would call her to return immediately, which was why Hines stayed in the building and did

Page 185

not clock out. If she were to leave the building, UAMS policy required her to clock out so they knew she was not in the building. When asked if she was required to take her breaks on the premises or if she could leave, Hines answered, "No, I could not leave." The nurse manager covered her desk when Hines was on break. On the day of the accident, Hines did not get a call to return, but she had been called back three to four times during her six years in that position.

          The ALJ found that Hines failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that she was performing employment services at the time of her fall. The Commission, in a split ...


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