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Cox v. Memorial Hospital at Gulfport

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

July 24, 2018


          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/03/2017





          TINDELL, J.,

         ¶1. 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.


         ¶2. 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.

         ¶3. 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.

         ¶4. 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.

         ¶5. 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 . . . ."

         ¶6. 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 evaluation.

         ¶7. 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 ...

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