Lennox Industries, Inc. and ESIS, Third Party Administrator v. Byron Owens

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Arkansas Court of Appeals

Not Designated for Publication



ESIS, Third Party Administrator





CA 05-6

November 9, 2005





David M. Glover, Judge

Appellants, Lennox Industries, Inc., and ESIS, appeal the Workers' Compensation Commission's grant of benefits to appellee, Byron Owens. On appeal, they contend that the Commission's determination that appellee proved by a preponderance of the evidence that he sustained a compensable injury while employed by Lennox is not supported by substantial evidence. We affirm.

The standard of review in workers' compensation cases is well settled. We view the evidence and all reasonable inferences deducible therefrom in the light most favorable to the Commission's findings and affirm the decision if it is supported by substantial evidence. Geo Specialty Chem. v. Clingan, 69 Ark. App. 369, 13 S.W.3d 218 (2000). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a

conclusion. Air Compressor Equip. v. Sword, 69 Ark. App. 162, 11 S.W.3d 1 (2000). The issue is not whether we might have reached a different result or whether the evidence would

have supported a contrary finding; if reasonable minds could reach the Commission's conclusion, we must affirm its decision. Geo Specialty, supra.

At the hearing, Byron Owens testified that he began working at Lennox in 1990; that he worked wherever he was needed; but that he normally ran a machine called an Amada, which punched holes in metal. On December 21, 1999, Owens's supervisor told him to "run some boards," and when he started doing that, his hands began hurting. He testified that after he ran the boards and returned to his machine, he felt a pop and then saw a knot on his right wrist; when he told his supervisor, he was sent to the nurse.

Owens admitted on cross-examination that he had not explained his injury as a "pop" during a previous deposition, but as a more gradual injury. However, he also stated on redirect that he had complained to the nurse on several occasions prior to December 21 about his hands and that she would give him ice packs and put cream on his wrists. He said that only after he showed the nurse the knot on his wrist on December 21 did the nurse send him to the doctor.

Lennox sent Owens to Dr. Heisen, who gave him an injection, some naproxen, and a splint for his right wrist; however, with the splint on his right wrist, Owens mainly used his left hand, and it also began to bother him. When Owens complained to the nurse about his left hand, she sent him back to Dr. Heisen, who gave him a splint for his left wrist and referred him to Dr. Hahn. Owens said at that point, his hands would fall asleep, even when he was driving, and that he could not sleep at night.

Dr. Hahn began giving Owens steroid injections in his wrists, which caused his hands to swell with fluid, and ordered physical therapy. Dr. Hahn then sent Owens to Dr. Miles for nerve conduction tests, and after that, Owens returned to Dr. Hahn for more steroid shots. Owens testified that he then saw Dr. Yelvington, who treated him for carpal tunnelwith medication and therapy, and Dr. Daniels, who also prescribed similar treatment. Owens then went to Dr. Moore, who referred him to St. Vincent's for a vascular Doppler study, and then to Dr. Rutherford, who also performed a nerve-conduction test. After seeing Dr. Rutherford, Owens returned to Dr. Yelvington and Dr. Daniels, who continued to treat him for carpal tunnel with splints and therapy.

Owens said that he then saw Dr. Clark, who sent him to see Dr. Verma, who performed more nerve-conduction tests. Dr. Clark then performed surgeries on both of Owens's wrists, and later performed a second surgery on the left wrist.

The medical records indicate that Owens saw Dr. Heisen on January 4, 2000, and was diagnosed with "cysts wrist," "carpal-tunnel syndrome," and "neuropathy." On January 20, 2000, a physician's report diagnosed Owens with "right volar wrist ganglion" and "bilateral carpal-tunnel syndrome." These diagnoses were repeated in a February 10, 2000 physician's report.

A February 28, 2000 electrodiagnostic examination, conducted by Dr. Miles, indicated that those nerve-conduction studies were normal, and that there was no evidence of carpal-tunnel syndrome on either wrist. However, on May 3, 2000, Owens was diagnosed at the Stuttgart Medical Clinic with "bilateral hand pain & weakness - unclear etiology - atypical carpal tunnel symptoms."

Dr. Moore, a hand surgeon, examined Owens on May 22, 2000, and noticed that his left-hand fingers were cold. Dr. Moore opined that although Owens's clinical history and physical examination suggested possible carpal-tunnel syndrome, the nerve-conduction studies were normal, and that Owens's problems might be consistent with Raynaud's phenomena. Dr. Moore ordered more diagnostic testing and referred Owens to Dr. Reginald Rutherford, a neurologist. Dr. Rutherford's May 31, 2000 report noted that Owens's handswere ice cold to the touch, that there were small ganglions over the volar area of each wrist, and that the clinical picture was most consistent with a vasopastic disorder. An EMG report by Dr. Rutherford on May 31, 2000 also indicated that there was "no evidence . . . to suggest carpal-tunnel syndrome or other focal abnormality on the peripheral nervous system." It was after the receipt of these reports that appellants, who had been paying for Owens's medical care, controverted his claim.

Dr. Charles Clark, an orthopedic surgeon, testified that he began treating Owens in February 2001 after he was referred by Dr. Yelvington for bilateral numbness and tingling in his upper extremities. Dr. Clark said that Owens presented with numbness and tingling in his hands and a weak right shoulder, and that Owens could relate it back to an injury at work around December 1999. Dr. Clark ordered additional nerve-conduction tests, which, in his opinion, indicated "severe bilateral CTS and left ulnar nerve entrapment at Guyon's canal." In his report, Dr. Clark stated that there was "no question" that Owens had severe carpal-tunnel syndrome on both wrists that was suspected to be related to his job at Lennox. Dr. Clark suggested that Owens was going to require bilateral carpal-tunnel releases.

Dr. Clark performed carpal-tunnel release on Owens's right wrist on March 30, 2001, and he performed the same procedure on the left wrist on June 15, 2001. On June 29, 2001, Owens reported "multiple complaints" to Dr. Clark regarding both wrists; his right wrist did improve, but his left wrist continued to be numb and tingle.

Additional electrodiagnostic tests were performed on July 3, 2001, which indicated improving carpal-tunnel syndrome after surgery, and again on July 30, 2001, which showed no carpal-tunnel syndrome, neuropathy, or ulnar nerve entrapment in any of the upper extremities. On August 20, 2001, Dr. Clark noted that the nerve-conduction studies indicated significant improvement on the left side.

Dr. Clark returned Owens to work on October 1, 2001, but Owens came back to him after going back to work, complaining again of problems. After further electrodiagnostic testing, Owens was diagnosed on November 21, 2001, with "bilateral moderately severe carpal-tunnel syndrome." Dr. Clark's November 28 report indicated that Owens had a recurrence of his carpal-tunnel problems since his return to work, which was confirmed by Dr. Clark with additional nerve-conduction studies.

In its opinion, the Commission specifically noted that it recognized Dr. Rutherford's opinion that appellee did not suffer from carpal-tunnel syndrome, but it attached greater weight to Dr. Clark's opinion, as the treating orthopedic surgeon, that appellee did suffer from carpal-tunnel syndrome. It is the Commission's province to determine witness credibility and the weight to be given to each witness's testimony. Johnson v. Riceland Foods, 47 Ark. App. 71, 884 S.W.2d 626 (1994). Any contradictions in the evidence are for the Commission to reconcile. Arkansas Dep't of Health v. Williams, 43 Ark. App. 169, 863 S.W.2d 583 (1993).

Appellants argue that "the more credible evidence shows that the appellee did not meet his burden of proof that he has carpal-tunnel syndrome" and that "speculation and conjecture, even if plausible, cannot take the place of proof." However, this court does not determine credibility; rather, it is bound by the Commission's credibility determinations. Given the fact that the Commission was faced with two competing opinions regarding whether Owens suffered from carpal-tunnel syndrome, we must defer to the Commission's credibility determination favoring the opinion of Dr. Clark over that of Dr. Rutherford. For that reason, the Commission's award of benefits to Owens is affirmed.


Hart and Crabtree, JJ., agree.