Frederick L. Williams v. Healthcare Services Group

Annotate this Case
ca04-112

ARKANSAS COURT OF APPEALS
NOT DESIGNATED FOR PUBLICATION

DIVISION II

FREDERICK L. WILLIAMS

APPELLANT

V.

HEALTHCARE SERVICES GROUP

APPELLEE

CA04-112

November 10, 2004

APPEAL FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION

[NO. E814356]

REMANDED

Josephine Linker Hart, Judge

Appellant, Frederick L. Williams, appearing pro se, appeals from a decision of the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission in which it found that appellant's claims for benefits had been adjudicated in a previous Commission decision. We remand to the Commission for clarification of its orders.

Several opinions have been issued in this case by the administrative law judge (ALJ) and the Commission, and we must examine each of these opinions in explaining our need for clarification. In an opinion filed September 22, 1999, the ALJ found that appellant failed to prove that he sustained an injury arising out of and during the course of his employment with appellee, Healthcare Services Group, on November 12, 1998. Further, the ALJ found that appellant failed to offer medical evidence supported by objective findings necessary to establish a compensable injury, failed to prove that he was ever temporarily totally disabled as a result of his injury, and failed to prove that he was entitled to any benefits.

On March 17, 2000, the Commission filed an opinion vacating the ALJ's decision and remanding the case for additional findings of fact. The Commission noted that, while the ALJ found that there was no "medical evidence supported by objective findings," the ALJ did not consider all the relevant evidence in the record, and the ALJ was instructed to make a full examination of the relevant evidence presented in the case.

In an opinion dated March 31, 2000, the ALJ found that appellant had shown by a preponderance of the evidence that he sustained a compensable injury arising out of and during the course of his employment with appellee on November 12, 1998, and that appellee was responsible for all medical expenses through January 19, 1999. The ALJ, however, further found that appellant's healing period had ended on or before January 19, 1999, and that he failed to prove that he was ever temporarily totally disabled or that his medical treatment or his need for medical treatment after January 19, 1999, was reasonably necessary or related to the November 12, 1998, incident.

In an opinion dated June 30, 2000, the Commission "adopted" the ALJ's March 31, 2000, decision, "including all findings and conclusions therein...." In setting out the findings of the ALJ, however, the Commission did not restate the findings from the ALJ's March 31, 2000, opinion. Instead, the Commission restated the findings from the ALJ's September 22, 1999, opinion. We point out that these two ALJ opinions differ on the issue of whether appellant failed to prove that he sustained an injury arising out of and during the course of his employment with appellee on November 12, 1998. The ALJ's September 22, 1999, opinion concludes that he did not, and the ALJ's March 31, 2000, opinion concludes that he did.

The case again came before the ALJ. On December 27, 2002, the ALJ issued an opinion stating that appellant was requesting a hearing for benefits, either by trying the issue of compensability for a second time or by appealing the Commission's June 30, 2000, opinion. The ALJ determined that he did not have jurisdiction to do either, and he denied appellant's request for a hearing. In reaching this decision, the ALJ concluded that the Commission had stated in its June 30, 2000, opinion that appellant failed to prove that he suffered a compensable injury. Further, the ALJ noted that he did not have jurisdiction to "appraise" the Commission's ruling. In his discussion, the ALJ stated that the Commission's June 30, 2000, opinion had adopted, not the findings in the ALJ's March 31, 2000, opinion, but rather, the findings in the ALJ's September 22, 1999, opinion, and in particular, adopted the findings that appellant failed "to prove the occurrence of a compensable injury or to offer any medical evidence supported by objective findings necessary to establish a compensable injury...."

Appellant appealed to the Commission. In his supporting brief, he argued, inter alia, that he was entitled to permanent-total-disability benefits. In an opinion dated November 19, 2003, the Commission found that appellant's claims for benefits had already been adjudicated, that the Commission's opinion of June 30, 2000, was law of the case, and that any appeal from the 2000 decision was untimely. It noted that in its June 30, 2000, opinion, it affirmed and adopted the ALJ's March 31, 2000, opinion, but that the findings of fact listed the findings from the ALJ's September 22, 1999, opinion. The Commission noted that appellant did not file an appeal from the June 30, 2000, opinion or ask the Commission to correct its order.

On appeal to this court, appellant asserts that the extent of his injuries has not been ascertained and that he is presently disabled. We remand this case to the Commission for further clarification of its opinion dated November 19, 2003. It is unclear from that opinion whether the Commission has concluded that it committed a clerical error when, in its June30, 2000, opinion, it restated the findings from the ALJ's September 22, 1999, opinion instead of the findings in the ALJ's March 31, 2000, opinion. See Ark. Code Ann. ยง 11-9-713(d) (Repl. 2002)(providing that the Commission "may, at any time, correct any clerical error in any compensation order or award"). As the ALJ's two opinions indicate opposite conclusions, we are thus unable to determine whether the Commission found in its June 30, 2000, opinion, that appellant suffered a compensable injury. Without knowing whether the Commission found that appellant suffered a compensable injury, we are unable to determine which of appellant's claims, e.g., permanent disability, are res judicata.

Remanded.

Pittman and Vaught, JJ., agree.