OF JUDGMENT: 09/26/2016
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: JAMES KENNETH WETZEL, RUSSELL S.
GILL, GARNER JAMES WETZEL
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: JEFFERSON PINCKNEY W. SKELTON ANDY
GRIFFIS, P.J., WILSON AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.
Christopher Walker appeals the Workers' Compensation
Commission's decision overturning an administrative
judge's determination that he suffered an on-the-job
injury to his lower back. The administrative judge found in
favor of Walker and awarded him temporary total disability
benefits until he reached maximum medical improvement, as
well as medical expenses, including for spinal surgery. On a
petition for review, the Commission disagreed with the
administrative judge's findings, reversed the
administrative judge's order, and dismissed Walker's
petition for failure to prove a compensable workplace injury.
Finding no error, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Walker had an extensive medical history with lower-back pain
prior to working for Kinder Morgan Inc. Walker began his
employment with Kinder Morgan on or about September 26, 2011.
When he started working he was already undergoing physical
therapy for his back from a prior accident. According to
Walker, Kinder Morgan was unaware of his previous
work-related and automobile injuries. Around February 11,
2015, Walker had an automobile accident. Damage was done to
his vehicle, and Walker was taken to the emergency room.
According to Walker, he was experiencing muscle spasms and
tingling in his foot following the accident.
Walker was prescribed a muscle relaxer and pain medication,
and he was taken off work for a week because Kinder Morgan
does not allow its employees to work while taking
mood-altering medications. Walker returned to Kinder Morgan
on February 24, 2015, with no restrictions. On his first day
back to work, Walker was required to assist a coworker, Donte
Meyers, in dismantling a compressor, draining its oil, and
removing and replacing the inner filters. The lid attached to
the compressor had to be removed to change the oil.
The lid weighed approximately seventy to eighty pounds.
Walker and Meyers lifted the lid off of the compressor. While
lifting the lid and twisting around, Walker testified that he
felt a "bite" in his back. According to Walker, his
weight was on his right hand, side, and knee, and he had a
preexisting low-back injury.
After Walker and Meyers lifted the lid, Walker carried it
over a threshold; at that point he turned the lid in a
different position and carried it against his chest down a
step. He again felt a "pinch" in his back when he
laid the lid on the concrete area. According to Walker,
Meyers was on the opposite side of the compressor, and did
not see Walker maneuvering the lid because his view was
obstructed. Walker testified that he did not inform Meyers
that he injured his back, since he had just returned to work.
Two Kinder Morgan supervisors, Kelly Pitts and Darwin
Stillson, were making safety rounds and walked over to
Walker's area as he was placing the lid on the ground.
Stillson and Pitts briefly conversed with Walker and Meyers,
but Walker did not mention the injury to them. That evening,
Walker went home and lay on the floor, attempting to ease his
back pain. His pain did not subside and actually worsened.
The next day Walker noticed that his right foot was numb and
his back was still hurting; however, he did not report the
injury that day, though Kinder Morgan's policy was to
report the injury immediately.
Two days after the injury, Walker noticed numbness in his
foot and sharp pains in his back. Three days after the
injury, Walker went to his work leader, James Rachal, and
reported the injury. According to Walker, Rachal recommended
that an injury report be made, and that he see his family