FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO.
& Co., PLLC, by: Tim Cullen, for appellant.
Roberts Law Firm, P.A., by: Jeremy Swearingen and David Tyler
Mills, for appellees.
KENNETH S. HIXSON, JUDGE.
Jason Papageorge brought a workers' compensation claim
alleging that he sustained compensable neck and spinal-cord
injuries while working for appellee Tyson Shared Services,
Inc. (Tyson) in the early morning hours of March 16, 2016.
Jason was a salesman for Tyson, and his claim arose out of a
one-car automobile accident that occurred while he was
driving from his house to the Northwest Arkansas Regional
Airport in anticipation of traveling to meet with an
out-of-state customer. The claim was originally accepted by
Tyson as compensable. However, Tyson subsequently
controverted the claim after learning that Jason's blood
had tested positive for alcohol at Springfield Mercy Hospital
on the morning of the accident. Tyson relied on the statutory
presumption that the accident was substantially occasioned by
the use of alcohol.
hearing, the administrative law judge (ALJ) denied
compensability of Jason's claim. The ALJ found that the
presence of alcohol created a rebuttable presumption that the
accident was substantially occasioned by alcohol, and that
Jason was not entitled to compensation because he failed to
prove by a preponderance of the evidence that alcohol did not
substantially occasion the accident. The Arkansas
Workers' Compensation Commission affirmed and adopted the
now appeals from the Commission's decision denying
compensability. On appeal, he argues that the Commission
erred in relying on the statutory presumption to deny
benefits because he plainly and clearly rebutted the
presumption. We affirm.
statutory presumption at issue in this case is encompassed in
Arkansas Code Annotated section 11-9-102(4)(B)(iv) (Repl.
2012), which provides:
(B) "Compensable injury" does not include:
. . . .
(iv)(a) Injury where the accident was substantially
occasioned by the use of alcohol, illegal drugs, or
prescription drugs used in contravention of physician's
(b) The presence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or
prescription drugs used in contravention of a physician's
orders shall create a rebuttable presumption that the injury
or accident was substantially occasioned by the use of
alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription drugs used in
contravention of physician's orders.
(c) Every employee is deemed by his or her
performance of services to have impliedly consented to
reasonable and responsible testing by properly trained
medical or law enforcement personnel for the presence of any
of the aforementioned substances in the employee's body.
(d) An employee shall not be entitled to
compensation unless it is proved by a preponderance of the
evidence that the alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription
drugs utilized in contravention of the physician's orders
did not substantially occasion the injury or accident.
the Commission denies benefits because the claimant has
failed to meet his burden of proof, the substantial-evidence
standard of proof requires that we affirm if the
Commission's decision displays a substantial basis for
the denial of relief. Ayers v. City of Ashdown, 2014
Ark.App. 270. We view the evidence in the light most
favorable to the Commission's decision, which will be
affirmed if it is supported by substantial evidence.
Parker v. Comcast Cable Corp., 100 Ark.App. 400, 219
S.W.3d 391 (2007). The issue is not whether the appellate
court might have reached a different result from the
Commission, but whether reasonable minds could reach the
result found by the Commission; if so, the appellate court
must affirm. Id. We defer to the Commission's
findings of credibility and the resolution of conflicting
evidence. Welcher v. Davis Nursing Home, 2009
record shows that on the night before the accident, Jason and
his wife, Shelby, had returned home to northwest Arkansas
from their honeymoon in Bora Bora. Their long day of travel
included consecutive flights from Bora Bora to Tahiti, Los
Angeles, Dallas, and to their final destination at the
Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. They arrived at the
Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport at around 8:00 p.m.
Jason's job as a salesman involved extensive travel, and
he was scheduled to leave on a business flight to Minnesota
at 5:00 a.m. the next morning.
set his alarm for 3:30 a.m. but did not awake until 3:50 a.m.
While driving to the airport in an attempt to catch his
flight, Jason failed to negotiate a curve and flipped his car
two or three times. The accident occurred shortly before 4:30
a.m., and Jason was taken by ambulance to Washington Regional
Medical Center. He was subsequently flown to Springfield
Mercy Hospital, where he underwent neck and back surgery. A
blood draw taken at 9:26 a.m. at Springfield Mercy Hospital
detected alcohol in Jason's blood at a concentration of
110 milligrams per deciliter. As a result of the accident,
Jason suffered complete paralysis below his chest and partial
paralysis in his arms and hands.
testified about consuming alcohol during periods of his
travel home from Bora Bora as well as on that night after
returning home. According to Jason, he did not drink on the
flight from Bora Bora to Tahiti. Upon boarding the plane from
Tahiti to Los Angeles, Jason drank a mimosa but did not drink
for the remainder of the flight. Jason stated that during the
flight from Los Angeles to Dallas, he ate a meal but did not
recall consuming any alcohol. While at the Dallas airport,
Jason ate a dish of ...