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Harmon v. SFD Holdings Inc.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

August 28, 2018

MARY L. HARMON APPELLANT
v.
SFD HOLDINGS INC. (OXFORD HEALTHCARE) AND LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY APPELLEES

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/21/2017

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: ROBERTA LYNN HAUGHTON

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: GEORGE E. READ SHEA STEWART SCOTT

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., BARNES AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.

          LEE, C.J.

         ¶1. In this appeal, we must determine whether the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission's (the Commission) decision to reduce the claimant's loss of wage-earning capacity from 50% to 20% was arbitrary and capricious.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Mary Harmon suffered an on-the-job injury on June 14, 2013, while working as a certified nurse assistant (CNA) at SFD Holdings Inc., d/b/a Oxford Healthcare, in Tupelo, Mississippi. She filed a petition to controvert on August 21, 2013. Harmon's employer admitted that she sustained an injury to her cervical spine, back, and right upper extremity. After a hearing, the administrative judge (AJ) found that Harmon suffered a 50% loss of wage-earning capacity. The AJ awarded Harmon $242 per week in temporary total disability benefits beginning June 14, 2013, and ending October 14, 2015. The AJ also awarded Harmon $121.01 per week in permanent partial disability benefits beginning October 15, 2015, for 450 weeks.

         ¶3. SFD appealed to the Commission. The Commission affirmed the AJ's findings regarding the compensability of Harmon's claim and the award of temporary total disability benefits but reduced the loss of wage-earning capacity from 50% to 20%. As a result, Harmon was awarded $48.40 per week in permanent partial disability benefits.

         FACTS

         ¶4. After her injury, Harmon went to a local emergency room for treatment, where she received pain medication.[1] Harmon later sought treatment from Dr. Chad Altmeyer, who initially prescribed injections and physical therapy. Dr. Altmeyer continued to treat Harmon's right-shoulder injury, but referred her to Dr. Kenny Edwards for treatment of her back injury. Ultimately, Harmon required surgery on her back and her right shoulder. Dr. Edwards diagnosed Harmon with cervical stenosis and disc herniations from vertebrae C4 through C7. Dr. Edwards performed a cervical fusion on Harmon in April 2014 and placed Harmon at maximum medical improvement (MMI) on December 3, 2014, with a twenty-five-pound lifting restriction.

         ¶5. Dr. Altmeyer performed a right shoulder arthroscopy with debridement and decompression on Harmon's right shoulder in June 2015. Post-surgery, Dr. Altmeyer recommended that Harmon continue physical therapy. Dr. Altmeyer placed Harmon at MMI on October 14, 2015, with restrictions including no overhead work and no repetitive pushing or pulling.[2] Dr. Altmeyer assigned Harmon a permanent impairment rating of 3% to her right upper extremity.

         ¶6. Dr. Rahul Vohra conducted an independent medical examination (IME) on Harmon in April 2016. Dr. Vohra also reviewed the medical records from both Dr. Edwards and Dr. Altmeyer. Dr. Vohra determined that Harmon had an impairment rating of 1% to her upper right extremity and 6% to her whole person for her cervical spine. Dr. Vohra agreed with the twenty-five-pound lifting restriction. He further found that Harmon should limit overhead work to an occasional basis and limit pushing and pulling up to forty pounds on an occasional basis.

         ¶7. Pete Mills conducted a vocational evaluation dated May 29, 2015. Mills's report referred to a functional capacity evaluation (FCE) conducted by Alan Thompson on October 21, 2014. The excerpt from the FCE in Mills's report stated that Harmon was capable of light-level work, or "exerting up to [twenty] pounds of force constantly and/or up to ...


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