CARYL S. ULRICH APPELLANT
PUBLIC EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 02/01/2018
FROM WHICH APPEALED: HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST
JUDICIAL DISTRICT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. TOMIE T. GREEN
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: HENRY BERNARD ZUBER III
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: JANE L. MAPP SAMUEL MARTIN MILLETTE
BARNES, C.J., WESTBROOKS AND LAWRENCE, JJ.
Caryl Ulrich applied for duty-related disability benefits
from the Public Employees' Retirement System of
Mississippi ("PERS") in 2015. Ulrich claimed to
have been injured from an electrical shock while working at
Pascagoula High School. The PERS Medical Board ("the
Board") denied her claim for disability benefits. The
Board found that there was "insufficient objective
medical evidence to support the claim that [Ulrich's]
medical condition prevents [her] from performing the duties
of a teacher." Furthermore, the Board found that Ulrich
failed to prove that her disability was related to a
traumatic event that occurred while teaching. The Board's
decision was affirmed by both the PERS Disability Appeals
Committee ("Appeals Committee") and the Hinds
County Circuit Court. She now appeals those decisions to this
Court. We affirm the decision of the Board and the circuit
Caryl Ulrich taught at Pascagoula High School for over
seventeen years until she resigned in May 2015. A year before
she retired, she claimed she was electrocuted while flipping
a light switch off in class. Ulrich told the Board and the
Appeals Committee that when she went to switch the light off,
she heard a loud crackle or pop and saw a flash of fire or a
spark. She then collapsed against the metal door frame, and a
student brought her a chair to sit in until a nurse could
Ulrich went to MedWorks Clinic and received care from Dr.
John Pessoney after the incident. She complained of pain on
her left side and a headache. There is nothing to indicate
she lost consciousness during the event. Ulrich was released
without restriction by Dr. Pessoney.
Three days later, Ulrich returned to the MedWorks Clinic for
a follow-up evaluation. Her headache had persisted, as well
as the pain in her left arm and hand. Dr. Pessoney indicated
that Ulrich should go see a neurologist. On that same day,
Ulrich went to the emergency room and received a shot of
Benadryl along with a dose of Hydrocodone.
Ulrich introduced evidence of a "burn" mark on her
right hip. No such mark was documented on the date of the
incident. Ulrich initially believed the marks were hives.
Ulrich testified at her hearing before the Committee that she
showed her neurologist, Dr. Terrence Millette, the
"burn" on her hip she believed to be an exit wound.
Dr. Millette advised her to take a picture of the mark, but
Ulrich testified to the Appeals Committee that she
"didn't at that point," and it was not until
six weeks later that she finally took the photo of her hip
that showed the markings. Ulrich's testimony to the
Appeals Committee indicated she believed the burns were a
result of the electricity potentially exiting her body.
Ulrich completed several different tests while in Dr.
Millette's care, along with three separate cycles of
physical therapy to correct her issues. Dr. Millette found
that Ulrich suffered from "mild carpal tunnel
syndrome" in her right wrist. He also gave Ulrich Botox
injections in her neck for her pain caused by muscle spasms.
The record shows that the residual testing that Ulrich
completed came back consistently normal. Ulrich, however,
continued to complain of pain in her left side, double
vision, and dizziness with nausea. Her medical records do not
indicate that she ever explored corrective lenses to fix her
double vision, as was suggested by an Appeals Committee
member at her hearing.
It was not until a year after the incident that Ulrich filed
for duty-based disability benefits through PERS. Ulrich had
continued to work as a teacher, but claimed she suffered from
pain on her left side, double vision, and nausea. At that
point, she was already receiving workers' compensation
benefits. Dr. Millette completed the PERS "Statement of
Examining Physician" form, concluding that Ulrich was
disabled due to pain in her left side. While Ulrich claimed
that nausea and double vision were ...