The Court of Appeals recently reversed a trial court’s decision awarding benefits outside of the statutory schedule in American Cast Iron Pipe Company v. Sharon Blackmon. The Court also reversed the trial court’s decision to grant the employee an additional authorized treating physician after she had already chosen a doctor from a panel of 4.
Blackmon worked as a pipe processor for ACIPCO, and sustained injuries to her wrist in 2008 and to her ankle in 2010. There was no dispute that the injuries were compensable, but there was disagreement over whether Blackmon’s injuries were subject to the statutory schedule.
At trial, Blackmon testified that her wrist pain did not normally extend to or affect other parts of her body, but that the pain would sometimes run up her arm. As for her ankle injury, the evidence indicated that prolonged standing would cause aching, but it did not prevent her from taking care of herself. There was no evidence that the ankle injury affected other parts of Blackmon’s body.
The trial court considered evidence provided by Blackmon’s vocational expert, and found that Blackmon suffered a 35% permanent partial disability, and awarded benefits outside of the statutory schedule. The court also granted Blackmon’s request that ACIPCO provide her treatment with a new physician of her choice.
On appeal, ACIPCO argued that the evidence did not support the trial court’s decision to award benefits outside of the statutory schedule and that the trial court should not have considered vocational evidence. The Court of Appeals agreed and stated that injuries may only be removed from the schedule when the effects of an injury to a scheduled member extend to other parts of the body and interfere with their efficiency. The Court found no substantial evidence indicating that the effects of either scheduled injury extended to or interfered with other parts of Blackmon’s body. The Court also noted that vocational evidence is generally irrelevant when compensation is limited to the statutory schedule.
The Court also agreed that ACIPCO should not have to provide Blackmon with yet another treating physician. The evidence was clear that Blackmon had already exercised her right in selecting a new treating physician from a panel of 4, and the Court held that she was not entitled to another new doctor.
About the Author
This post was written by Trey Cotney, Esq. of Fish Nelson LLC, a law firm dedicated to representing employers, self-insured employers and insurance carriers in workers’ compensation matters. Fish Nelson is a member of the National Workers’ Compensation Network (NWCDN). If you have any questions about this article or Alabama workers’ compensation issues in general, please feel free to contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or any firm member at 205-332-3430.