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Sheffield v. S.J. Louis Construction Inc.

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

December 12, 2019

ROBERT SHEFFIELD
v.
S.J. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION INC. AND ZURICH AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/28/2018

         ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI

          MISSISSIPPI WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: GARNER JAMES WETZEL JAMES KENNETH WETZEL WILLIAM BIENVILLE SKIPPER

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: JAMES KENNETH WETZEL

          GARNER JAMES WETZEL ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: WILLIAM BIENVILLE SKIPPER SUZANNE C. HUDSON

          KING, PRESIDING JUSTICE

         ¶1. Robert Sheffield was injured on the job while working for S.J. Louis Construction (S.J. Louis). Sheffield filed a petition to contravert, and the administrative law judge (AJ) awarded Sheffield permanent-partial disability benefits. S.J. Louis appealed the decision to the full Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission), and the Commission reversed this finding, concluding that Sheffield did not suffer any additional disability from the 2015 injury than that caused by a 2010 injury. Sheffield appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed the Commission's decision. S.J. Louis filed a petition for writ of certiorari with this Court. Because we find that the Commission's decision was supported by substantial evidence, we reinstate and affirm that decision.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY[1]

         ¶2. On June 1, 2015, while employed as a truck driver by S.J. Louis,

Sheffield lost his balance when he attempted to look into the back of his dump truck. Although Sheffield grabbed a handle on the side of his truck to steady himself, he still missed the step beneath him. Sheffield experienced immediate lower-back pain, which he reported to his supervisor, Max Hardin. Hardin then reported the injury to his supervisor, Telley Lopez, who took Sheffield to see Dr. Rickey Chance. Dr. Chance ordered X-rays of Sheffield's back and prescribed Sheffield pain medicine and muscle relaxers. Sheffield participated in physical therapy but had to stop due to increased pain. He followed up with Dr. Chance, who recommended an MRI and referred Sheffield to Dr. Wolfson.
On August 13, 2015, Sheffield saw Dr. Wolfson, who then referred him to Dr. Samir Tomajian, a pain-management specialist. After treatment methods provided minimal or temporary pain relief, Sheffield underwent a functional-capacity evaluation (FCE). The physical therapist who performed the FCE recommended that Sheffield perform only light-duty work and limit standing and sitting for prolonged time periods. On October 27, 2015, Dr. Eric Amundson performed an employer medical evaluation (EME) on Sheffield. Dr. Amundson found Sheffield could return to work in a moderate-duty capacity, but he recommended that Sheffield lift no more than forty pounds.
In February 2016, Dr. Wolfson found that Sheffield had reached [maximum medical improvement, or] MMI[, ] for his 2015 back injury. Sheffield testified that Dr. Wolfson stated he could do nothing else and did not recommend surgery for Sheffield. Dr. Wolfson assigned Sheffield a 7% impairment rating to the body as a whole and stated Sheffield was capable of performing light-duty work. After Dr. Wolfson released Sheffield to return to work, Sheffield began completing job applications in May 2016. Sheffield applied for at least 130 jobs and even contacted Hardin, his former supervisor at S.J. Louis. S.J. Louis informed Sheffield, however, that it had no job openings.

Sheffield v. S.J. Louis Constr. Inc., No. 2018-WC-00385-COA, 2019 WL 1349766, at *2-3 (Miss. Ct. App. ...


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