The Arkansas Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a decision by the Arkansas Workman’s Compensation Commission that awarded additional temporary total disability benefits to a former worker at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
The university and the Public Employees Claims Division had appealed a decision by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who ruled that Carl Hopkins, who received an injury while working at UAPB that required additional medical treatments, was entitled to additional temporary disability benefits.
Hopkins was 53 when he suffered a neck injury on April 8, 2016, while transporting components of a large stage from the school gym to the Pine Bluff Convention Center. He said that he reached over to grab a smaller stage that was rolling off the sidewalk, was pushed down, and felt a pop in his neck. He developed left arm and shoulder pain and reported the incident on April 19.
He was referred to Health Care Plus, where he was examined by Dr. Justin Seale, who treated Hopkins with injections and physical therapy until being released from medical supervision on Nov. 23, 2016, with a zero percent impairment rating.
The court ruling said Hopkins continued to feel pain and was referred to neurosurgeon Dr. Brad Thomas in January 2017. Thomas determined that conservative treatments, injections and physical therapy had not worked and recommended surgery. Hopkins was excused from work from January to April, then again until May 30, 2017. Hopkins returned to work on June 19, 2o17.
At a hearing in July, the ALJ denied Hopkins’ request that his medical bills from Dr. Thomas be paid because he had not obtained permission from either the university, its Public Employees Claims Division, or the commission. Hopkins, however, was awarded an additional period of disability that ran until the day he returned to work.
UAPB contended that Hopkins was not entitled to the additional disability, but writing for the court, Judge Mike Murphy said that the healing period continues until an employee is able to return, as much as the character of the injury will exist, and will end when the condition that caused the disability is stabilized and no additional treatment will improve the condition.
He said the commission determines when the healing period has ended.