ITTA BENA PLANTATION III AND BENCHMARK INSURANCE COMPANY APPELLANTS/ CROSS-APPELLEES
RAYMOND L. GATES APPELLEE/ CROSS-APPELLANT
OF JUDGMENT: 05/30/2018
MISSISSIPPI WORKERS' COMPENSATION
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: LORALEIGH CHRISTINE PHILLIPS
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: JOSEPH RODNEY FRANKS
CARLTON, P.J., GREENLEE AND McCARTY, JJ.
In this appeal, we must determine whether the Mississippi
Workers' Compensation Commission erred in calculating
loss of wage-earning capacity when awarding Raymond L. Gates
permanent partial disability benefits. Finding that the
Commission's decision was supported by substantial
evidence, we affirm. As to Gates's issues on
cross-appeal, we also affirm the Commission's decision.
Gates suffered a work-related back injury while employed as a
tractor driver for Itta Bena Plantation. Gates's employer
stipulated that the injury was compensable and that his
average weekly wage at the time was $718.05. After a hearing,
the administrative judge (AJ) found that Gates had suffered a
75% loss of wage-earning capacity. The AJ awarded Gates
$359.02 per week in permanent partial disability (PPD)
benefits beginning July 13, 2015, for 450 weeks. The Employer
appealed to the Commission, which affirmed the AJ's
The Employer appealed, arguing that the Commission erred in
(1) calculating Gates's loss of wage-earning capacity,
and (2) interpreting medical evidence regarding Gates's
permanent work restrictions.
Gates cross-appealed, arguing the Commission erred by (1) not
finding him permanently totally disabled; (2) finding the
Employer rebutted the presumption of permanent total
disability (PTD); (3) permitting the deposition of the
vocational expert, Angela Malone, in lieu of her testimony;
(4) denying his motion to strike Malone's report; and (5)
relying upon Malone's testimony.
After his injury, Gates initially sought medical treatment
from a local hospital. Later, he was treated by both Dr.
Rahul Vohra, a physical medicine specialist, and Dr. Jack
Moriarity, a neurosurgeon. Gates was diagnosed with fractures
to his lumbar spine, a broken rib, and significant multilevel
lumbar stenosis. Dr. Vohra and his nurse practitioner, Alice
Messer, treated Gates for his injuries for about one year.
The treatment involved prescribing physical therapy and pain
medication. According to Dr. Vohra, Gates reached maximum
medical improvement (MMI) on July 13, 2015. Dr. Vohra
assigned permanent work restrictions to light duty, which
constituted lifting up to thirty pounds rarely and up to
twenty pounds occasionally. Dr. Vohra determined that Gates
had a 7% impairment rating to his body as a whole.
Later, Dr. Howard Katz conducted an independent medical
evaluation (IME) on Gates. He agreed with Dr. Vohra's 7%
impairment rating. But Dr. Katz determined that Gates was
capable of performing medium-duty work. Gates saw Dr. Vohra
and Messer twice after undergoing the IME. On both occasions,