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WORKERS' COMPENSATION & CONTEMPT BY EMPLOYER - AUGMENTATION, INC. V. HARRIS

Augmentation, Inc. v. Harris, [Ms. 2150307, Sept. 23, 2016] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2016). The Court of Civil Appeals affirms the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court's judgment holding an employer in willful contempt pursuant to Rule 70A, Ala. R. Civ. P., Overnight Transp. Co. v. McDuffie, 933 So. 2d 1092 (Ala. Civ. App. 2005) and Ex parte Cowgill, 587 So. 2d 1002 (Ala. 1991) for its failure to pay for an employee's medical treatment. The determination of whether to hold a party in contempt is discretionary and "will not be reversed on appeal absent a showing that the trial court acted outside its discretion or that its judgment is not supported by the evidence." Ms. *25-6, quoting Good Hope Contracting Co. v. McCall, 187 So. 3d 1128, 1142 (Ala. Civ. App. 2015). Here, the medical evidence from the employee's treating physician indicated that care for her back injury including an epidural steroid injection and anti-inflammatory patches were warranted, but the employer failed to present any evidence that its refusal to pay for the indicated medical treatment was reasonable because it made its decision based upon the utilization-review procedure set out in Alabama Admin. Code (Workers' Compensation), Rule 480-5-5-.01, et seq., or the procedure set forth in § 25-5-88, Ala. Code 1975 permitting an employer to dispute its liability for an injury by filing a petition setting out the basis of the dispute as described in Total Fire Prot., Inc. v. Jean, 160 So. 3d 795 (Ala. Civ. App. 2014). Because the trial court's conclusion that the employer had not properly investigated or challenged its obligation to pay for the prescribed treatment before declining to pay for that treatment was supported by the evidence, and because the employer failed to show that it had invoked either the utilization-review procedure set forth in Rule 480-5-5-.01, et seq., or the judicial review procedure set forth in § 25-5-88, the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court's judgment holding the employer in contempt is affirmed.

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