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Lucas v. Angelica Uniform Group

October 13, 1998

SUSIE BAXTER LUCAS APPELLANT
v.
ANGELICA UNIFORM GROUP AND AMERICAN APPELLEES MOTORISTS INSURANCE COMPANY



Before McMILLIN, P.j., Diaz, And Payne, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Payne, J.

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/26/97

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JOSEPH H. LOPER, JR.

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: CHOCTAW COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - WORKERS' COMPENSATION

TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: DENIED COMPENSATION

DISPOSITION: REVERSED - 10/13/98

MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:

CERTIORARI FILED:

MANDATE ISSUED:

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶1. This case involves a workers' compensation claim filed by Susie Lucas on August 19, 1994, against her employer, Angelica Uniform Group, located in Ackerman, Mississippi. On May 16, 1996, the administrative law Judge decided that the claimant's injury was compensable and ordered Angelica Uniform to pay disability benefits to the claimant. Feeling aggrieved by this ruling, Angelica Uniform filed its notice of appeal to the Full Commission. The Full Commission affirmed the administrative law Judge's order. Additionally, the Commission addressed the statue of limitations claim and found that the claim was not barred by the two year statute of limitations. The Commission based its decision on the fact that the claimant's condition was a "latent-injury." Feeling aggrieved by this latest ruling, Angelica Uniform appealed to the Choctaw County Circuit Court. The circuit court reversed the prior decision of the Full Commission, stating that the decision was not supported by substantial evidence and was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Further, the court noted that the claim relating to the carpal tunnel syndrome was barred by the statute of limitations. Feeling aggrieved by the decision entered against her, the claimant appealed this ruling.

¶2. Holding that the circuit Judge essentially re-weighed the facts, we reverse the ruling of the Circuit Court of Choctaw County and remand this case to the Commission for reinstatement of the Commission's decision.

FACTS

¶3. The claimant is a forty-eight-year-old resident of Mathiston, Mississippi, who dropped out of school in the ninth grade. She has worked as a sewing machine operator as well as having worked on a factory line. The claimant began working for Angelica Uniform in March of 1992. Her duties at Angelica involved inspecting shirts. Within a few months of employment with Angelica Uniform, the claimant complained of pain in her hands and wrists, and consequently, she sought treatment from Dr. Charles Ozborn. On cross examination, the claimant accepted the facts and Conclusions presented to her by the employer's attorney, that Dr. Ozborn advised her at that time that she probably suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome which was likely caused by her employment.

¶4. Dr. Ozborn referred the claimant to Dr. Crompton who explained through a medical note that he would speak with the claimant about the connection between the claimant's work obligations and that work's aggravation of her condition. Dr. Crompton reaffirmed his diagnosis with the benefit of Dr. John Schottland's EMG studies, which indicated that the claimant had an abnormal bilateral severe slowing across the carpal tunnels with clear-cut evidence of denervation in the form of marked reduction of the motor unit potentials on motor stimulation. Dr. Crompton performed right endoscopic release surgery on the claimant's right wrist in June of 1993, followed by left endoscopic release surgery on the claimant's left wrist in July of 1993.

¶5. On May 31, 1994, after continued complaints, Dr. Mitchell Myers performed a second EMG. This procedure suggested bilateral median neuropathy at the wrist and suggested a repeat carpal tunnel surgery. Dr. Crompton performed an open right carpal tunnel release with external neurolysis of the median nerve on May 31, 1994. In February of 1995, Dr. Crompton diagnosed a left wrist triangular fibrocartilage tear and lunotriquetral ligament tear and repaired each on February 21, 1995.

¶6. Feeling that she should be compensated, the claimant filed her petition to controvert against Angelica in 1994. The administrative law Judge stated that the claimant suffered compensable injuries to her wrists as a result of her employment with Angelica Uniform. The administrative law Judge noted that the claimant was temporarily totally disabled for certain periods of time: July 12, 1993-August 13, 1993; April 31 [sic], 1994-July 12, 1994; February 21, 1995-June 7, 1995. Likewise, the administrative law Judge specifically noted in her order that the employer must:

Pay to the claimant temporary total disability benefits in the amount of $113.90 per week due and payable for the following periods, with credit for any such payments heretofore made by the employer and carrier or for wages earned by the claimant during these periods of time: a. July 12, 1993 through August 13, 1993; b. April 31 [sic], 1994 through July 12, 1994; c. February 21, 1995 through June 7, 1995. The employer is entitled to a credit of $770.00 against this award.

¶7. The administrative law Judge also stated that the employer was obligated to furnish medical treatment to the claimant and its failure to pay installments of temporary total disability also mandated a ten percent penalty under Miss. Code Ann. § 71-3-37 (5) (Rev 1995). The Commission affirmed the administrative law Judge's decision, while separately addressing the issue of when the claimant discovered that her work related injury was compensable. The Commission addressed the contradictions in the claimant's testimony in which she said on direct examination that Dr. Crompton told her of the compensability of her injury in 1993 and yet on cross examination agreed to a factual Conclusion as stated by the employer's attorney -- that Dr. Ozborn had diagnosed the condition and told her it was job ...


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