Appeals Court upholds denial of permanent disability benefits

What the Arkansas Court of Appeals described as a “case of dueling doctors” resulted in its decision to uphold the denial of permanent impairment for a former employee of Central Moloney.

Betty Boykin had challenged the decision of the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission to deny her permanent benefits for carpal-tunnel syndrome, based on a report from Dr. Alan Pollard.

Boykin began working for Central Moloney in 1978, and left Jan. 18, 2006. Afterward she was treated by Pollard for carpal-tunnel syndrome.

After a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge ruled in 2008 that Boykin had proved she had a “gradual-onset injury,” and authorized Boykin to return to Pollard for additional treatment. Central Moloney and Crockett Adjustment Insurance were ordered to pay all medical expenses, and Boykin was awarded temporary total disability from July 14 to Aug. 21, 2006, based on Pollard’s records.

A complaint by Boykin that she had also received a back injury was not allowed because of the statute of limitations.

Pollard was also asked to complete a form reporting his opinion on how long it would take Boykin to heal, any work restrictions, and any permanent impairment that would result from the carpal-tunnel syndrome.

In his report, Pollard indicated that Boykin had “reached maximum medical improvement” at the end of her recovery period, and that she suffered “no permanent impairment due to her work-related injuries.”

Boykin complained of continued pain and saw Dr. Michael W. Moore, who referred her to Dr. Reginald Rutherford, a neurologist.

In his report, Dr. Moore said Boykin’s left hand was impaired by 10 percent, based on American Medical Association guidelines, a diagnosis that Pollard disagreed with, saying he “saw no objective basis for it.”

After another hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, Boykin was awarded 10 percent permanent disability, and Central Moloney and its insurance company were ordered to pay all Boykin’s medical expenses relating to carpel-tunnel syndrome.

The Workers Compensation Commission upheld the ruling regarding the payment of Boykin’s medical bills, but rejected the awarding of permanent disability, expressly crediting the opinion of Pollard over that of Moore.

In the Appeals Court ruling, Judge Robin Wynne said “the commission has the duty of weighing medical evidence, and the resolution of conflicting evidence is a question of fact for the commission.

“It is well settled that the commission has the authority to accept or reject medical opinion and the authority to determine its medical soundness and probative force, “Wynne said in the ruling.