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LLC v. Scott

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

October 31, 2017

LOWE'S HOME CENTERS, LLC APPELLANT
v.
EDWIN SCOTT APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/24/2016

         MISSISSIPPI WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: JILL RENEE MILLER MICHAEL MADISON TAYLOR JR.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: BRETT ANDREW FERGUSON

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES AND FAIR, JJ.

          FAIR, J.

         ¶1. Edwin Scott developed a staph infection in his spine after receiving epidural injections as treatment for a workplace injury. After being presented with dueling expert opinions, the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission found that the infection had resulted from the injections and thus was a compensable injury itself. Lowe's Home Centers, the employer/carrier, contends that Scott's expert should not have been be credited. We disagree and affirm.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶2. "[R]eview of a decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission is limited to determining whether the decision was supported by substantial evidence, was arbitrary and capricious, was beyond the scope or power of the agency to make, or violated one's constitutional or statutory rights." Cook v. Home Depot, 81 So.3d 1041, 1044 (¶3) (Miss. 2012) (citation omitted). "Because the Commission is the ultimate fact-finder and judge of the credibility of the witnesses, [an appellate court] may not reweigh the evidence before the Commission." Id. at 1044-45 (¶3) (citation omitted). Questions of law, on the other hand, are reviewed de novo. Ladner v. Zachry Constr., 130 So.3d 1085, 1088 (¶9) (Miss. 2014).

         DISCUSSION

         ¶3. Scott injured his lower back while unloading a heavy appliance. He was to be treated with a series of epidural steroid injections. The first was on May 9, 2014, with the second following on May 29, 2014. On May 30, Scott was found to have an epidural abscess in the lower back, a staph infection caused by methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria. The infection necessitated several serious surgeries.

         ¶4. The factual dispute in this case is causation - whether the injections led to the staph infection. "In workers' compensation cases, the claimant bears the burden of proving by a fair preponderance of the evidence . . . a causal connection between the injury and the . . . claimed disability." Harper v. Banks, Finley, White & Co. of Miss., 167 So.3d 1155, 1163 (¶19) (Miss. 2015) (citation omitted).

         ¶5. The expert for Lowe's, Dr. Eric Amundson, a neurosurgeon, testified that infections rarely resulted from epidural injections and that Scott, a diabetic, was especially vulnerable to "spontaneous" infections. He noted that Scott had had two staph infections in the past two years in other parts of his body. Dr. Amundson concluded that the injections were not the cause of Scott's infection.

         ¶6. On the other hand, Dr. Eric McVey, an infectious disease specialist who treated Scott, testified that he believed the infection was caused by the injections. He based this finding on the timing of the injections and their location, which was a few centimeters from the infection. Dr. McVey noted that "spontaneous" infections do not appear from nowhere, but require staph bacteria to have entered the blood somehow. Because it is not possible to fully sterilize skin prior to an injection, the bacteria could have entered Scott's body from the needle punctures. Alternatively, bacteria already present in the blood could have infected the spine because of inflammation from the injections. Dr. McVey acknowledged that it would be unusual for an infection to result ...


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