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Barfield v. Mississippi State Hosp.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

August 27, 2013

Tony BARFIELD, Appellant/Cross-Appellee
v.
MISSISSIPPI STATE HOSPITAL, Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

Page 462

Darryl Moses Gibbs, Jackson, Jennie Southerland and Hoyle Pitts, attorneys for appellant.

Courtney Anne Titus, Richard Mack Edmonson Jr., attorneys for appellee.

Before IRVING, P.J., CARLTON and JAMES, JJ.

JAMES, J.

¶ 1. Tony Barfield filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits against the Mississippi State Hospital (MSH) following injuries he sustained from a work-related incident. In addition to physical injuries, Barfield claimed that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psychological injuries stemming from the incident. The administrative judge (AJ) found that Barfield suffered physical and psychological injuries from the incident, and that his psychological injury rendered him permanently and totally disabled. The Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission) upheld the AJ's finding of a psychological overlay resulting from Barfield's work injury, but reversed the AJ's finding of permanent and total disability. Finding that Barfield was only temporarily totally disabled, the Commission reduced Barfield's award of disability benefits.

¶ 2. From this order, both parties present separate issues before this Court. Barfield appeals the decision of the Commission to reduce his disability benefits, arguing that the Commission applied an improper legal standard in finding that he was only temporarily disabled. MSH cross-appeals the Commission's findings of a psychological overlay and temporary total disability. Finding the order of the Commission is based on substantial evidence, we affirm.

Page 463

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶ 3. Barfield began working for MSH in 1982 as a direct-care employee. At some point, Barfield was promoted to a supervisory position as a mental-health technician. On July 1, 2004, Barfield was called to assist an employee with a mentally-ill patient who weighed approximately 350 pounds. While assisting the employee, Barfield was violently attacked bye the patient. The patient hit Barfield in the head, knocking him to the concrete floor. The patient then sat on top of Barfield and struck him in the head repeatedly. Security guards attempted to restrain the patient and accidentally fell on top of Barfield. During the melee, Barfield's head hit the concrete floor multiple times. Barfield testified that he could not remember what happened next. That same day, Barfield was treated by Dr. Tim Morris at the Baptist Medical Clinic for back pain, arm pain, and a headache. Dr. Morris diagnosed Barfield with multiple contusions and myalgia, and instructed Barfield not to return to work until the following week.

¶ 4. Four months later, Barfield continued to experience severe headaches and pain in his right foot from the attack. Barfield also began to experience anxiety and insomnia. On November 11, 2004, Barfield was examined by his family physician, Dr. Steven Easley. Dr Easley had been Barfield's primary physician for nearly fourteen years prior to Barfield's attack. Barfield informed Dr. Easley about the violent attack, and stated that he was having frequent nightmares about the incident. He also stated that he had not returned to work after the incident because the patient who had attacked him was still a resident at MSH. According to Barfield, he resigned from his job out of fear that the patient would attack him again. Over the next month, Dr. Easley continued to monitor Barfield's mental status and foot injury. Dr. Easley noted that Barfield had exhibited signs of depression since the incident. Dr. Easley diagnosed Barfield with PTSD, and decided that he needed further treatment. He referred Barfield to Dr. John Norton, a board-certified psychiatrist and neurologist. On December 28, 2004, Barfield filed a petition to controvert.

¶ 5. Dr. Norton began treating Barfield on May 9, 2005. Barfield informed Dr. Norton about the attack, and reported having persistent headaches and anxiety as a result of the incident. Dr. Norton noted that Barfield displayed symptoms of paranoia, anxiety, and memory loss. After nearly two months of treatment, Dr. Norton diagnosed Barfield with a traumatic brain injury and depression. Dr. Norton also noted that the violent attack on July 1, 2004, caused or contributed to Barfield's psychological condition. According to Dr. Norton, as of June 24, 2005, Barfield had reached his maximum medical improvement, but was not able to return to work full-time.[1]

¶ 6. Thereafter, Barfield applied for Social Security disability benefits. As part of his application, Barfield was examined by Dr. Teresa Elias-Hooper. During the evaluation, Dr. Elias-Hooper administered a series of tests along with a comprehensive mental-status examination. At the end of the evaluation, Dr. Elias-Hooper concluded that Barfield displayed symptoms of PTSD and depression. She also opined that Barfield was unable to " function full-time in any normal work-related environment." On December 6, 2005, Barfield

Page 464

was examined by Dr. Andrew Yates as part of his application for Social Security disability benefits. Dr. Yates concluded that Barfield suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome or traumatic ...


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