Continental Grain/Wayne Poultry v. Judy Reed

Annotate this Case
ca04-437

ARKANSAS COURT OF APPEALS
NOT DESIGNATED FOR PUBLICATION

DIVISION III

CONTINENTAL GRAIN/WAYNE POULTRY

APPELLANT

V.

JUDY REED

APPELLEE

CA04-00437

DECEMBER 8, 2004

APPEAL FROM THE WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION

[E119933]

AFFIRMED

Karen R. Baker, Judge

Appellant, Continental Grain/Wayne Poultry, appeals from a decision by the Commission (affirming the ALJ) finding that appellee, Judy Reed, is entitled to continuing medical treatment, specifically, the refilling of periodic prescriptions for Amitryptiline, Sulindac, and Protonix, as prescribed by an authorized treating physician. On appeal, appellants argue that the Commission's opinion finding that Ms. Reed proved by a preponderance of the evidence that appellants are responsible for continuing medical treatment for her 1990 wrist injuries is not supported by substantial evidence. We affirm.

It is undisputed that, on February 26, 1990, Ms. Reed sustained a compensable work-related injury to her hands and wrists. She underwent a volar carpal ligament release on March 21, 1991, on her left hand. Almost immediately, she was prescribed three medications, Amitryptiline, Sulindac, and Protonix, one of which was to keep her hands from "going to sleep" and "drawing up." Another was for arthritis that developed within a month after the surgery, and the last medication was for stomach irritation from the prescribed medication before surgery. She had remained on all three medications since her 19991 surgery until this dispute.

Appellants paid appropriate periods of temporary total disability benefits. Furthermore, appellants have accepted and paid a four percent impairment rating to Ms. Reed's right upper extremity and a five percent impairment rating to Ms. Reed's left upper extremity. However, in September 2002, appellants informed Ms. Reed that they would no longer pay for the filling of the three prescriptions for Amitryptiline, Sulindac, and Protonix.

Ms. Reed testified at the hearing that the prescriptions for the medication expired in March 2003. She stated that, since that time, she has been unable to refill the prescriptions due to fact that she was unable to afford to pay for them. Without the medication, she has noticed a significant change in the condition of her hands, such as swelling and cramping. Moreover, the Amitryptiline helped improve her condition enough that she did not have to wear splints as often during the night. She specifically stated that, "[she] never realized how much [the medications] did until [she] quit using them." Since Ms. Reed's 1990 work-related injury, she testified that she had experienced other health problems, such as osteoarthritis in her hips and shoulders and problems with her left knee. She received injections in her shoulders, as well as physical therapy for her shoulders and hips. She also received physical therapy and rhizotomy on her lower back.

At the conclusion of a hearing on June 27, 2003, the ALJ found that Ms. Reed was entitled to continuing medical treatment, specifically, the refilling of periodic prescriptions for Amitryptiline, Sulindac, and Protonix, as prescribed by an authorized treating physician. The Commission affirmed the ALJ's decision. This appeal followed.

Appellants argue that the Commission's opinion finding that Ms. Reed proved by a preponderance of the evidence that appellants are responsible for continuing medical treatment for her 1990 wrist injuries is not supported by substantial evidence. Specifically, appellants assert that continuing medical treatment is not causally related to the February 26, 1990 compensable injury and that continuing medical benefits would constitute unreasonable, unnecessary and unrelated medical treatment. Thus, treatment after September 2002 should be terminated.

On appellate review of workers' compensation cases, the appellate court views the evidence and all reasonable inferences deducible therefrom in the light most favorable to the findings of the Commission and will affirm the Commission's ruling if there is any substantial evidence to support the findings made. Beaver v. Benton County, 66 Ark. App. 153, 991 S.W.2d 618 (1999). Substantial evidence is that relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Patterson v. Frito Lay, Inc., 66 Ark. App. 159, 992 S.W.2d 130 (1999). The determination of the credibility and weight to be afforded a witness's testimony is within the sole province of the Workers' Compensation Commission. American Greetings Corp. v. Garey, 61 Ark. App. 18, 963 S.W.2d 613 (1998). If reasonable minds could reach the Commission's conclusion, its decision must be affirmed. Min-Ark Pallet Co. v. Lindsey, 58 Ark. App. 309, 950 S.W.2d 468 (1997).

Arkansas Code Annotated section 11-9-508(a) (Repl. 1996) requires employers to provide such medical services as may be reasonably necessary in connection with the employee's injury. American Greetings Corp., supra. The employee has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that medical treatment is reasonable and necessary. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Brown, 82 Ark. App. 600, 120 S.W.3d 153 (2003). Whether a medical procedure is reasonable and necessary is a question of fact to be decided by the Commission. Air Compressor Equip. v. Sword, 69 Ark. App. 162, 11 S.W.3d 1 (2000).

Under the facts of this case, we find that substantial evidence supports the Commission's decision that Ms. Reed is entitled to continuing medical treatment, specifically, the refilling of periodic prescriptions for Amitryptiline, Sulindac, and Protonix, as prescribed by an authorized treating physician. Appellants offered no explanation for terminating payment for Ms. Reed's medication other than the fact that the medication benefitted health problems other than those associated with the February 26, 1990, compensable injury. However, Ms. Reed testified at the hearing that she had been on three medications since February 1990 and that they had been beneficial to the condition of her hands. She testified that appellants abruptly informed her in September 2002 that they had stopped paying for her three medications, and her prescriptions expired in March 2003. Since March 2003, she had not taken the medications because she was unable to pay for them. She explained that the condition of her hands had significantly deteriorated without the medications. Specifically, she had increased swelling and cramping, and she had to wear her hand splints more often during the night. Given appellee's testimony, we hold that substantial evidence supports the Commission's decision.

Griffen and Crabtree, JJ., agree.