Trotter
v.
Weyerhaeuser Co.

Before the Arkansas Workers' Compensation CommissionMar 5, 1998
1998 AWCC 85 (Ark. Work Comp. 1998)

CLAIM NO. E319616

ORDER FILED MARCH 5, 1998

Upon review before the FULL COMMISSION in Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas.

Claimant represented by the HONORABLE SHEILA CAMPBELL, Attorney at Law, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Respondents represented by the HONORABLE JUDY ROBINSON, Attorney at Law, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Decision of the Administrative Law Judge: Remanded.


ORDER

[2] This matter comes before the Full Commission on the claimant's motion to remand this case to the administrative law judge. After considering the claimant's motion, the respondent's response thereto, and all other matters properly before the Full Commission, we find that the claimant's motion must be granted.

The claimant has appealed an opinion and order filed by the administrative law judge on December 8, 1997, finding that the claimant failed to prove that she is entitled to additional medical treatment for her compensable right side carpal tunnel syndrome injury. This case was submitted to the administrative law judge without a hearing, on trial briefs filed to the administrative law judge with documentary evidence attached to the briefs. The claimant filed her brief to the administrative law judge on November 21, 1997, and attached one medical record to the brief. The respondents filed their brief to the administrative law judge on November 26, 1997, and attached approximately nine medical documents to their brief.

As we interpret the administrative law judge's December 8, 1997, opinion and order, the administrative law judge has placed significant weight on a January 21, 1997, report from a Dr. G. Thomas Frazier regarding a patient named Linda Trotter. This report was one of the approximately nine medical reports attached to the respondent's November 26, 1997, brief to the administrative law judge.

The claimant's motion to remand takes issue with the administrative law judge's reliance on Dr. Frazier's January 21, 1997, report, based on the indicated age of the patient and the employment history of the patient in Dr. Frazier's January 21, 1997, report. In their response to the claimant's motion, the respondents indicate that they received this document only days before the letter briefs were due, and the respondents do not state a position as to whether or not this particular document does or does not relate to the Linda Trotter who is the claimant in this case.

If the respondents had acknowledged in their response that the report they sent to the administrative law judge was irrelevant and not related to the Linda Trotter who is the claimant in this case, we would have reviewed the record on appeal after removing this document from the documentary evidence. However, since the respondents have not acknowledged that Dr. Frazier's January 21, 1997, report does not relate to the claimant in this case, we find that this file must be remanded to the administrative law judge to settle the record in this case.

We take this opportunity to note that a practice of having the parties submit a case to the administrative law judge without a hearing, by filing trial briefs and documentary evidence attached thereto, appears to be somewhat contrary to the intent of Ark. Code Ann. § 11-9-705(2)(A) (Repl. 1996) which provides that any party proposing to introduce medical reports or testimony of a physician at a hearing shall furnish copies of the written report to the opposing party and to the Commission at least seven days prior to the date of the hearing. As in the present case, where no hearing is held and the parties submit documentary medical evidence in a piecemeal fashion attached to their briefs, it would appear that the parties will not be aware of exactly what documentary evidence to discuss in their briefs, and the risk of surprise and confusion in the development of the documentary evidence by the parties appears significant. In our view, the more appropriate course of action to develop a documentary record in cases submitted by brief to an administrative law judge without a hearing is for the parties to develop a stipulated documentary record under the guidelines of Ark. Code Ann. § 11-9-705(2)(A) (Repl. 1996) filed with the Commission prior to the first brief filed with the administrative law judge.

In the present case, the parties are directed to investigate the relevance of Dr. Frazier's January 21, 1997, report to the issues presented in this case, and to provide the administrative law judge a stipulated record of documentary evidence in this case. If the parties cannot agree to a stipulated record of documentary evidence for the Commission's consideration in this case, the administrative law judge is directed to take such additional action, and hold any hearings that may be necessary, to properly develop a record in this case. After determining either a stipulated record prepared by the parties or after conducting such additional action as may be necessary to develop the record in this case, the administrative law judge is directed to reconsider his findings of fact and conclusions of law stated in the opinion and order filed on December 8, 1997, and to make such additional findings of fact and conclusions of law as may be indicated based on the record developed on remand in this case.

IT IS SO ORDERED.