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Worker failed to prove specific cause of foot fracture, court rules

Injured worker

An Arkansas man’s broken foot is not compensable because he did not demonstrate that it was caused by a specific incident, even though he received treatment for his foot from a company nurse and an emergency medical technician, a state appeals court ruled.

Anthony Yates worked in the smokehouse at the Forrest City, Arkansas, facility of New York-based meat and cheese processor Boar’s Head Provision Co. in June 2015, where he said he injured his right foot when he hit it on a switch. Mr. Yates visited the company nurse, who wrapped his foot, and he returned to work, according to the ruling handed down Wednesday by the Arkansas Court of Appeals in Little Rock.

The same day, Mr. Yates returned to the nurse’s station and saw an EMT who he said advised him that his foot was swollen but not broken, records show.

After three more days of work, Mr. Yates went to a local hospital where he was diagnosed with an oblique fracture, which required a cast. Mr. Yates was unable to work for seven weeks and incurred emergency room and x-ray fees. His health insurance paid for a visit to an orthopedic physician, according to court documents.

Boar’s Head’s nurse testified that she treated Mr. Yates for a foot injury but that he told her he did not know how he injured his foot. The EMT, who denied he said Mr. Yates’ foot was swollen but not broken, testified that Mr. Yates did not tell him he injured his foot while working. Both the nurse and EMT said if Mr. Yates had indicated the injury was work-related, they would have filled out comp paperwork and reported the injury.

Hospital records indicate Mr. Yates complained of foot pain but denied an injury, and the doctor who treated him testified Mr. Yates did not recall how he injured his foot, court records show.

In February 2016, an administrative law judge ruled that Mr. Yates had sustained a compensable injury, a decision the company appealed to the state workers comp commission. In July 2016, the commission reversed the judge’s decision and found Mr. Yates had failed to present sufficient evidence that he had sustained a compensable, specific-incident right-foot injury. The commission found that the nurse, EMT, hospital records and Mr. Yate’s responses on the employee first report of injury paperwork contradicted his testimony that he injured his foot at work, according to court records. Mr. Yates appealed, saying the commission’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court affirmed the commission’s decision, saying Mr. Yates failed to meet the burden of proof that the injury was caused by a specific incident identifiable by time and place of occurrence. The panel, noting that it is bound by the commission’s decision on issues of credibility, said the commission credited testimony of the nurse and EMT and relied on medical records to conclude that Mr. Yates’ testimony was not credible.

“The commission did not believe Yates's testimony that he had injured his right foot while working at Boar's Head,” the court said. “Accordingly, we hold that substantial evidence supports the commission's decision that Yates failed to establish a specific-incident injury arising out of and in the course of his employment at Boar's Head.”



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