OF JUDGMENT: 10/03/2017
TRIBUNAL FROM WHICH APPEALED: MISSISSIPPI WORKERS'
CAROLINE JANE SCOTT ROGEN K. CHHABRA ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT:
T. RUSSELL ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE
IRVING, P.J., WILSON AND TINDELL, JJ.
Following a work-related compensable injury, Rose Cox filed a
claim seeking permanent-partial disability benefits. After
the administrative judge (AJ) denied Cox's claim, she
appealed to the Mississippi Workers' Compensation
Commission (Commission). The Commission affirmed the AJ's
findings, and Cox then appealed to this Court. Finding no
error, we affirm the Commission's judgment.
At the time of her injury, Cox had been employed for two
years as a distribution technician at Memorial Hospital
(Memorial) in Gulfport, Mississippi. On May 8, 2014, Cox was
leaving work and walking to the employee parking lot when a
vehicle struck her. The collision injured Cox's legs and
pelvis. Dr. Inez Kelleher, an orthopedic surgeon affiliated
with Memorial, performed surgery on Cox. Following surgery,
Cox underwent inpatient-rehabilitation treatment at Memorial.
In addition to Dr. Kelleher, Cox received treatment from Dr.
Lee Voulters, a neurologist who oversaw her rehabilitation.
At the hearing, the only medical evidence Cox submitted to
the AJ consisted of the following: (1) Dr. Kelleher's
work-release form, (2) Dr. Voulters's final report, and
(3) Dr. Voulters's letter assigning Cox a permanent
partial impairment (PPI) rating. The March 3, 2015 work
release from Dr. Kelleher released Cox to return to work
without any restrictions. Six days later, on March 9, 2015,
Dr. Voulters found that Cox had reached maximum medical
improvement (MMI). Dr. Voulters's final report stated
that Cox had recovered well from her injury and achieved a
functional status comparable to her pre-injury baseline
level. Dr. Voulters opined that Cox should be able to resume
her pre-injury position. Dr. Voulters further noted that Cox
was able to squat well and ambulate without any assistive
device. The only restrictions Dr. Voulters assigned Cox were
no crawling or activities on her knees. On April 2, 2015, Dr.
Voulters signed a letter assigning Cox a PPI of three percent
for her body as a whole.
After Dr. Voulters placed her on MMI, Cox returned to her
position at Memorial on April 14, 2015, and she performed the
same tasks as she had before her injury. While Cox initially
earned the same hourly wage rate she had previously earned,
she eventually received a wage increase based upon a good
evaluation from her supervisor at the end of 2015. At the
hearing on October 11, 2016, Cox testified that, since
returning to work in April 2015, she had neither taken time
off nor sought additional treatment related to her injury.
She further testified that she did not need her cane to
assist her at work and had never used a walker at work.
Although she sometimes rested when her legs hurt and used a
cart to help her distribute medical supplies, Cox testified
that she was able to timely complete her assigned tasks and
had not received any work-related complaints.
Cox's supervisor, Mary Bradley, confirmed that Cox
returned to the same position she held prior to the accident
and performed the same tasks. According to Bradley, several
carts were available to help all the employees in Cox's
department distribute hospital supplies, and she stated that
she did not notice Cox rely on the carts more often following
her injury. Bradley testified that she observed Cox for
several weeks upon Cox's return to evaluate Cox's
post-injury capabilities. Bradley stated that Cox never
failed to perform any assigned tasks, never expressed
concerns about her work assignments, never complained about
injury-related issues, and never missed work due to such
issues. Based upon her observations, Bradley concluded that
Cox could satisfactorily perform all her job requirements.
Bradley further testified that Cox had not received any
reprimands since returning to work. Bradley instead
characterized Cox as a valuable and knowledgeable employee
whom she would "hire . . . again today if [Cox]
reapplied tomorrow . . . ."
Cathy Wood, who served as Memorial's vice president of
human resources, also testified that Cox returned to work
full time after her injury without any restrictions. Wood
confirmed that Cox performed the same pre-injury tasks at the
same hourly wage rate and had received no work-related
complaints since returning from her injury. Like Bradley,
Wood testified that Cox received a wage increase after
returning to work based on her favorable performance
Based on the evidence and testimony presented at the hearing,
the AJ found Cox suffered no loss in wage-earning capacity.
As a result, the AJ denied Cox's claim for
permanent-partial disability benefits. Following Cox's
appeal, the full ...