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Batesville Casket Co. v. Ales

August 18, 1998

BATESVILLE CASKET COMPANY AND LUMBERMENS MUTUAL CASUALTY COMPANY, APPELLANTS
v.
STEVE ALES, APPELLEE



Before Thomas, P.j., Diaz, And Herring, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herring, J., For The Court:

Batesville Caskett Company, et al v. Ales, 97-CC-00222-COA

THIS OPINION IS NOT DESIGNATED FOR PUBLICATION AND MAY NOT BE CITED, PURSUANT TO M.R.A.P. 35-B

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 1/31/97

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. ANDREW C. BAKER

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: PANOLA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - WORKERS' COMPENSATION

TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: DECISION OF THE WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION AFFIRMED

DISPOSITION AFFIRMED IN PART; REMANDED IN PART

This appeal comes to us from the Circuit Court of Panola County, Mississippi, which affirmed the decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission granting certain workers' compensation benefits to Steve Ales. He worked for Batesville Casket Company, ("BCC"), at the time of the alleged injury. BCC and Lumbermen's Mutual Casualty Company now ask us to reverse the decision of the Circuit Court. Nevertheless, after a review of the record, we affirm in part, and reverse and remand for proper calculations consistent with this

I. THE FACTS

Ales went to work for BCC as a temporary employee beginning on November 7, 1991. The purpose of Ales' employment was to fill in for absent employees, and his duties included stapling fabric to caskets. On November 12, 1991, while stretching a piece of fabric to facilitate the stapling process, Ales felt a "pop" in his left thumb. There is differing testimony as to whether or not Ales reported this incident to his employer. Ales claims that when his supervisor complained about his work speed, he informed his supervisor about the injury. The supervisor, Aaron Pernell, stated that Ales never reported the injury to him. Regardless, Ales did not seek medical treatment for his injury and in fact continued to work for BCC until he was laid off on December 22, 1991, in accordance with the temporary nature of his job.

After the expiration of his employment with BCC, Ales eventually sought medical treatment and when BCC was informed of this fact, it referred Ales to Dr. David Ball, a physician in Batesville, Mississippi. Dr. Ball then referred Ales to Dr. James Calandruccio, an orthopedic surgeon, of Memphis Tennessee. Dr. Calandruccio concluded that Ales suffered from "left gamekeepers thumb," a condition affecting the joints of the thumb and similar in many respects to a dislocation. Dr. Calandruccio determined that surgery could assist Ales in regaining the use of his thumb by fusing one of its joints together. This fusion process is designed to alleviate the problems caused by the dislocation but results in a permanent loss of movement in the fused joint. Ales was informed by Dr. Calandruccio that without the surgery, he had reached maximum medical recovery and had a permanent partial disability to the left thumb of twenty-two percent.

Ales eventually consented to the surgery, which was performed on July 10, 1992. He was later cleared to return to work with restrictions on August 19, 1992. The restrictions had to do with the amount of weight which he was allowed to lift with his left hand. Over time, the restrictions were reduced, and on January 5, 1993, all lifting restrictions were removed. Dr. Calandruccio was of the opinion that Ales reached maximum medical improvement on January 5, 1993, but still suffered from a seven percent impairment to his left thumb.

Following his release by Dr. Calandruccio, Ales obtained a job performing custodial tasks in the parks around Sardis Lake. Ales continued having problems with his left thumb after his release by Dr. Calandruccio, and he sought a second opinion from Dr. Richard Ennis, an orthopedic surgeon in Memphis, Tennessee. Ales complained to Dr. Ennis that he continued to suffer from pain and profuse sweating in the left thumb area. Dr. Ennis first saw Ales on August 23, 1993, and diagnosed him to be suffering from reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a condition of the nervous system, which would explain the pain and sweating. Dr. Ennis stated that reflex sympathetic dystrophy is a rare condition that can cause symptoms such as those suffered by Ales. He treated Ales with medications which relieved his patient's discomfort to some extent, but the treatment did not completely relieve the pain or the sweating. After continued treatment of Ales from August 23, 1993, to June 20, 1994, Dr. Ennis concluded that Ales reached maximum medical recovery on March 14, 1994, and had a twenty percent permanent impairment to his left thumb, more particularly described as a five percent impairment to his non-fused thumb joint; a three percent impairment based upon nerve damage suffered by Ales; and a twelve percent impairment based upon the surgical fusion of the thumb joint. Dr. Ennis further gave Ales an eight percent permanent impairment to his hand as a whole based on American Medical Association guidelines because of the importance of the thumb to the rest of the hand. Dr. Ennis released Ales after March 14, 1994, with no restrictions. Following his ...


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