SHIRLEY E. PINION APPELLANT
PUBLIC EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 06/22/2018
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT TRIAL JUDGE:
HON. JEFF WEILL SR.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: GEORGE S. LUTER
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL SAMUEL
MARTIN MILLETTE III JANE L. MAPP
CARLTON, P.J., WESTBROOKS AND C. WILSON, JJ.
On February 26, 2013, the Board of Trustees (the PERS Board)
of the Public Employees' Retirement System of Mississippi
(PERS) entered an order approving and adopting the
recommendation, findings of fact, and conclusions of law of
the PERS's Disability Appeals Committee (the Committee),
thereby denying Shirley Pinion's application for
in-the-line-of-duty disability benefits pursuant to
Mississippi Code Annotated section 25-11-114(6) (Supp. 2011).
Dissatisfied, Pinion appealed to the Hinds County Circuit
Court seeking reversal of the PERS Board's decision. The
circuit court affirmed the PERS Board's decision on June
22, 2018. Finding the PERS Board's decision was supported
by substantial evidence, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Shirley Pinion was employed with the University of
Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) for 23 3/4 years before her
departure in 2012. Around 1997, Pinion received a
carpal-tunnel-syndrome (CTS) diagnosis, revealing that the
disease was most severe in her right hand. Despite the
diagnosis and its accompanying discomfort, Pinion continued
to work in her usual capacity with UMMC. The daily functions
of Pinion's position entailed a great deal of typing and
other computer-based work. In an attempt to avoid surgery,
Pinion used braces to assuage the pain. Unable to cope,
Pinion elected to undergo a carpel-tunnel-release surgery on
her right hand in July 1999. The surgery was intended to
relieve the CTS symptoms, but Pinion continued to experience
pain. Pinion sought further evaluation from a series of
physicians, and each provided different hypotheses about the
On August 13, 2001, Pinion was referred to and evaluated by
rheumatologist Dr. Suzanne Sanders. Dr. Sanders suspected
Raynaud's disease as the cause of Pinion's pain and
recommended further testing. Dr. Sanders was not able to
reach a definitive diagnosis.
On February 11, 2004, Pinion sought a pain-management
consultation from Dr. Jeffery Summers, who suggested
sympathetic pain was the culprit. Still seeking relief,
Pinion agreed to another surgery and allowed Dr. William
Lineweaver to perform a sympathectomy procedure in April
2004. Pinion reported increased pain after the procedure but
returned to work in May 2004.
Failed by surgical solutions, Pinion visited Dr. Rahul Vohra
in February 2006. Dr. Vohra developed an effective
pharmacologic-pain-management regimen to relieve the
unbearable CTS symptoms. Drugs used in Pinion's treatment
included a number of narcotic pain medicines and analgesic
patches. Pinion experienced notable relief and was able to
continue working with the aid of the medications.
On February 13, 2012, UMMC family physician Dr. Rebecca
Waterer evaluated Pinion. Although the prompt for
Pinion's appointment with Dr. Waterer is unclear, the
visit resulted in a determination that Pinion could not
safely perform the work tasks required of her and
simultaneously adhere to the drug regimen prescribed by Dr.
On February 14, 2012, UMMC placed Pinion on leave under the
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, 20 U.S.C. §
2601 et seq. (2012), pending the discontinuation or
significant decrease in the use of the narcotics. In light of
UMMC's determination, Pinion returned to Dr. Vohra, who
adamantly rejected UMMC's request that Pinion discontinue
or significantly decrease her use of the narcotics as
unreasonable after evaluating Pinion's pain levels. Dr.
Vohra also noted that Pinion had followed the drug regimen