Davis v. Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc

In Davis v. Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., 69 Ark. App. 74, 13 S.W.3d 171 (2000), aff'd 341 Ark. 751, 20 S.W.3d 326 (2000), the Court held that enactment of section 11-9-102 did not repeal case law regarding the issue of independent intervening cause, and that if a causal connection exists between a primary compensable injury and the subsequent disability, there is no independent intervening cause unless the subsequent disability is triggered by activity of the claimant that is unreasonable under the circumstances. The claimant in Davis had undergone ankle surgery for a compensable work-related injury; his healing process was delayed by an incident in which he stepped awkwardly to avoid stepping on his two-year-old niece. The Commission held that the incident was an independent intervening cause, which of its own accord precluded Davis's claim for additional medical treatment. The Court reversed and remanded the case for fact-finding in accordance with the standard set forth in Guidry v. J & R Eads Constr. Co., supra, and Georgia-Pacific Corp. v. Carter, 62 Ark. App. 162, 969 S.W.2d 677 (1998), that is, for determination of whether the requisite causal connection existed and, if it did, whether the disruption of the healing process of Davis's primary injury was caused by conduct that was unreasonable under the circumstances. In Davis v. Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., 341 Ark. 751, 20 S.W.3d 326 (2000), the supreme court reversed the Commission and affirmed our holding that the statutory language of Ark. Code Ann. 11-9-102 regarding independent intervening cause tracked the language in prior case law and left intact case law regarding "unreasonableness." The following excerpt from the supreme court's decision is pertinent to the present case: "Moreover, we must assume that the legislature was aware of Guidry when it enacted section 11-9-102(5)(F)(iii), and of Georgia Pacific v. Carter, 62 Ark. App. 162, 969 S.W.2d 677 (1998), when it recently enacted amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act in 1999. The legislature simply elected not to change existing law regarding independent intervening causes. In the absence of a statutory definition of independent intervening cause, we conclude that the legislature adopted the legal standard established and applied in prior Commission decisions and case law." (341 Ark. at 757, 20 S.W.3d at 330.)