Randolph County Medical Center and Royal & Sun Alliance v. Frances Mann

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CA 05-606

December 7, 2005





David M. Glover, Judge

Randolph County Medical Center and Royal & Sun Alliance appeal the Commission's decision that appellee, Frances Mann, was entitled to a change of physicians with regard to her compensable injury. On appeal, appellants argue that this decision is not supported by substantial evidence. We affirm the Commission's decision.

In workers' compensation cases, this court views the evidence and all reasonable inferences deducible therefrom in the light most favorable to the Commission's findings and affirms 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. 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).

The facts are not in dispute. Mann suffered a compensable injury on August 1, 2002, and she was treated in appellant Randolph County Medical Center's emergency room. She then saw her family physician, Dr. Andrew Jansen, on August 5, 2002, and obtained treatment for headaches. Mann was treated by Dr. Reginald Rutherford, a neurologist selected for her by appellants, from August to October 2002. Dr. Rutherford initially treated Mann for neck pain and headaches, but he also treated Mann for low-back pain after her neck pain and headaches improved with treatment. Dr. Rutherford released Mann for work on October 28, 2002, with a lifting restriction of twenty-five pounds, but Mann did not return to work.

Upon her release from Dr. Rutherford, Mann told appellants that she wanted a second opinion, and appellants directed her to Dr. Wayne Bruffett. Mann saw Dr. Bruffett on January 2, 2003, at which time he referred her to Dr. Bruce Safman, a pain-management specialist. During his treatment of Mann, Dr. Safman increased her lifting restriction from twenty-five pounds to thirty pounds, and he released her to return to full duty on March 28, 2003. Mann last saw Dr. Safman on April 11, 2003, and she was

released from his care on that day. Mann has not worked since being released by Dr. Safman.

Mann testified that she still has headaches, back problems, and numbness in her left leg. Appellants refused to authorize further treatment from Dr. Safman, and Mann has returned to Dr. Jansen, her family physician, for treatment of her headaches. Mann requested a change of physician from Dr. Safman to Dr. Jansen; appellants refused the request, denying that further medical treatment was reasonable and necessary for treatment of Mann's compensable injury.

The administrative law judge found that Mann was entitled to a change of physician, and the Commission affirmed and adopted the ALJ's opinion. Appellants now bring this appeal, arguing that the Commission's decision is not supported by substantial evidence. We disagree and affirm.

Arkansas Code Annotated section 11-9-514(a)(3)(A)(ii) (Repl. 2002) addresses a claimant's right to a change of physician and provides:

Where the employer has contracted with a managed care organization certified by the commission, the claimant employee, however, shall be allowed to change physicians by petitioning the commission one (1) time only for a change of physician to a physician who must either be associated with the managed care entity chosen by the employer or be the regular treating physician of the employee who maintains the employee's medical records and with whom the employee has a bona fide doctor-patient relationship demonstrated by a history of regular treatment prior to the onset of the compensable injury but only if the primary care physician agrees to refer the employee to the managed care entity chosen by the employer for any specialized treatment, including physical therapy, and only if the primary care physician agrees to comply with all the rules, terms, and conditions regarding services performed by the managed care entity chosen by the employer.

(Emphasis added.)

We find our court's reasoning in Magic Mart, Inc. v. Little, 12 Ark. App. 325, 676 S.W.2d 756 (1984), to be instructive. In that case, the court held that a change ofphysicians, mutually agreed upon by appellant and appellee, did not constitute appellee's one-time change of physician. The court granted the request for the change of physician, pointing out that the appeal involved the appellee's first petition to the Commission for a change of physician.

This case is similar to Magic Mart, supra. Here, appellants and appellee mutually agreed upon a change of physician from Dr. Rutherford to Dr. Bruffett. Dr. Bruffett then referred Mann to Dr. Safman. However, Mann's own request to change physicians from Dr. Safman to Dr. Jansen was her first petition to the Commission for a change of physician, and the statute clearly states that she is entitled to one such change of physician. Therefore, based upon the reasoning set forth in Magic Mart, supra, we hold that the Commission was correct in granting Mann's request for a change in physician.


Neal and Vaught, JJ., agree.