An injured worker can receive workers’ compensation benefits despite the fact that her injury was completely unexplainable, according to a May 25, 2022, appeals court decision.
The Arkansas Court of Appeals found the worker’s unexplained ankle injury was not caused by any prior health problems, and since it happened at work, was compensable.
Ankle popped as she turned corner into room
Meghan Johnson was a mental-health technician for the White County Medical Center. On April 15, 2020, she was walking around the psychiatric unit of the hospital checking on her patients.
As she turned a corner into one patient’s room, she heard and felt a pop in her right ankle. She reported the incident to her supervisors and continued to work despite her ankle being bruised and swollen. A few days later, her supervisors told her to report the incident to a manager who takes care of workers’ compensation claims.
Johnson saw her family doctor for treatment on April 17, 2020, and was diagnosed with a sprain. She returned on May 15 with continued complaints of pain and swelling, so her doctor took her off work until she could see an orthopedic surgeon.
The surgeon diagnosed her with a sprain, recommended physical therapy and took her off work for three weeks. After that treatment failed to work, she requested a second opinion by another orthopedic surgeon. That surgeon had an MRI done on Johnson’s ankle, which confirmed his suspicion that she had a torn tendon that required surgery.
Johnson was released back to work with no restrictions on Dec. 1, 2020.
Injury was work-related, compensable
An administrative law judge found Johnson didn’t meet her burden of proving the ankle injury was work-related and denied her claim. Later, the state’s Workers’ Compensation Commission reversed the judge’s decision, finding that Johnson did indeed prove her injury was work-related.
White County Medical Center appealed the commission’s decision.
The appeals court found that even though Johnson didn’t fall, trip, stumble, slip or run into anyone or anything, she knew precisely when her ankle popped and caused her pain. She was at work at the time and reported the incident. Medical evidence reveals the injury wasn’t the result of a previous injury or related condition.
All of this led the appeals court to uphold the commission’s decision since there was sufficient evidence supporting the commission’s finding that Johnson suffered a compensable injury that was identifiable by time and place and that arose out of her employment.