Court of Appeals Reverses Superior Court Decision and Rules Injured Employee Is Not Entitled to Further Workers' Compensation Benefits

Express Employment, a temporary employment agency, employed Terry Barker and sent him to work at a seafood processing plant on Aug. 14, 2018. Barker fell while attempting to move a bin and subsequently received medical treatment for hip and back pain, but did not inform the doctor of his history of back pain. He was diagnosed with a lumbar sprain, prescribed physical therapy and began received temporary total disability benefits. 

At a later appointment, Barker was again diagnosed with a lumbar strain after complaining of numbness in his fingers. He told a therapist his back no longer hurt, but he had numbness and tingling in his hands, which the therapist noted did not correspond to the diagnosis. A second doctor also diagnosed Barker with a lumbar strain and an MRI revealed arthritis and mild spinal curvature, but no continuing injury. Express then suspended Barker's wage benefits after the second doctor authorized a full release to work.

An administrative law judge (ALJ) denied Barker's petition for reinstatement of benefits in April 2019. Afterward, a doctor concluded Barker's symptoms resulted from an on-the-job injury and another doctor diagnosed the cause of his pain. While at home, Barker fell and reinjured his back and hip. At an August 2019 hearing, an ALJ determined his condition was not work related and the appellate board affirmed. Barker appealed to the Superior Court, and the court reversed the ALJ and appellate board's conclusion.

Express Employment appealed this ruling, arguing the Superior Court erred in reversing the appellate board's award. The Court of Appeals agreed and concluded the Superior Court erred by rejecting the board's factual conclusions and using its own. While the Court of Appeals also agreed the record contained competing evidence, there was some evidence supporting the board's determination that Barker's work injury had resolved. Additionally, the Court of Appeals found the Superior Court erred in reversing the board's ruling that Barker had a subsequent, intervening accident breaking the chain of causation as the evidence showed Barker was released to full duty work in October 2018 and his second fall occurred at home in April 2019. This fall was an intervening accident. The Superior Court was required to affirm the board's ruling according to the "any evidence" standard.

Click here to read the full case summary published by the Daily Report on Sept. 23, 2021.

Express Employment Professionals et al. v. Barker

Counsel for Express Employment: Briggs Peery and Nichole Novosel

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