Workers' Compensation - Scheduled Injury
Turner v. Baggett, Inc., [Ms. 2190745, Feb. 5, 2021], ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2021). The court (Moore, J.; Thompson, P.J., and Edwards, Hanson, and Fridy, JJ., concur) reverses the Mobile Circuit Court’s judgment concluding the employee’s workplace injury was a scheduled injury under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. The court explains
Substantial evidence supports the trial court’s factual finding that the employee sustained a ruptured right biceps tendon as the result of a work-related accident. However, substantial evidence does not support the trial court’s factual determination that the injury was contained solely within the right arm. The undisputed objective medical evidence indicates that the injury affected the employee’s spinal-cord nerves, causing a painful debilitating condition. The employer points to some discrepancies in the evidence that might have affected the credibility of the employee’s claim that his injury caused him neck pain and depression, but, even assuming that the trial court could have discounted those complaints, it remains undisputed that the employee exhibits objective signs of complex-regional-pain syndrome impairing an area of his body beyond his right arm, i.e., his central nervous system. “[T]he trial court is not free to disregard undisputed evidence in order to support its findings.” Benton v. Winn-Dixie Montgomery, Inc.,705 So. 2d 495, 497 (Ala. Civ. App.1997).
The court reverses and remands for the circuit court “to enter a new judgment concluding that the award of compensation is not governed by the schedule in the Act” but “decline(s) to render a judgment finding the employee permanently and totally disabled, as the employee requests, because the duty of determining the extent of disability is a function of the trial court as the fact-finder.” Ms. *13.