Workers Compensation for Inmates on Back Injury

This is a pro se workers' compensation case in which the appellant, X, is an inmate in the Arkansas Department of Correction. Appellee was appellant's employer on December 31, 1992, when he sustained a compensable back injury. In an opinion filed March 25, 1994, appellant received a five-percent permanent impairment rating and was awarded wage-loss disability of ten percent. There was no appeal from that decision. the instant appeal arises from the denial of additional medical benefits sought by appellant. the ALJ's decision was filed December 1, 1998, and the Commission's decision, affirming and adopting that of the ALJ, was filed March 11, 1999. Appellee raised a statute-of-limitations defense that was rejected by the ALJ. There has been no cross appeal on that issue. We affirm the Commission's denial of additional medical benefits. There are numerous problems with this appeal, not the least of which is the fact that appellant did not abstract the testimony from the hearing before the ALJ. Our review of a case on appeal is limited to the record as abstracted in the briefs. Hooker v. Farm Plan Corp., 331 Ark. 418, 962 S.W.2d 353 (1998). T he appellant carries the burden of producing an abstract that is an impartial condensation, without comment or emphasis, of material parts of the pleadings, proceedings, facts, documents, and other matters in the record as are necessary to an understanding of all questions presented on appeal. Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 4-2(a)(6). We sympathize with the difficulties involved in pro se appeals, particularly from the confines of prison. However, we do not relax our rules for pro se appellants. Hooker v. Farm Plan Corp., supra. They are held to the same standard as attorneys. Id. Here, appellant's "abstract" is set out on only two pages of his brief. He does not abstract the testimony in this portion of his brief, or in any other. While he includes the ALJs' and Commission's decisions in his addendum and mentions doctor's comments and records, he does not provide us with an abstract that is sufficient to allow us to decide the appeal without going to the record. Consequently, we find the abstract to be flagrantly deficient, and pursuant to Rule 4-2(b)(3) of the Rules of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, we affirm for noncompliance with our abstracting rules. Moreover, even if we were to address this case on its merits we would still affirm the Commission's denial of additional medical benefits. When reviewing a decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission, we view the evidence and all reasonable inferences deducible therefrom in the light most favorable to the findings of the Commission and affirm that decision if it is supported by substantial evidence. Hooks v. Gaylord Container Corp., 67 Ark. App. 159, 992 S.W.2d 844 (1999). In cases where a claim is denied because a claimant failed to show entitlement to compensation by a preponderance of the evidence, the substantial-evidence standard of review requires that we affirm if a substantial basis for the denial of relief is displayed by the Commission's opinion. Id. Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Id. The question is not whether the evidence would have supported findings contrary to those made by the Commission; there may be substantial evidence to support the Commission's decision even though we might have reached a different conclusion if we sat as the trier of fact or heard the case de novo. Id. A decision by the Workers' Compensation Commission should not be reversed unless it is clear that fair-minded persons could not have reached the same conclusions if presented with the same facts. Dalton v. Allen Eng'g Co., 66 Ark. App. 201, 989 S.W.2d 543 (1999). Appellant lists eleven "points of appeal," many of which are hard to understand, were not raised below, relate to the earlier proceedings from which no appeal was taken, or involve concepts under the previous Worker's Compensation Act that are no longer applicable. the ALJ quoted from the January 13, 1998, MRI that was performed while appellant was in prison. the results of that MRI were: IMPRESSION: the upper three lumbar discs are unremarkable. the L4-5 and L5-S1 discs are narrowed and desiccated. There are small hypertrophic spurs posteriorly at these levels. There is a left paracentral disc extrusion at L4-5 which is impinging upon the thecal sac. There is a small central disc protrusion at L5-S1. the spinal canal at both of these levels is mildly stenotic. The following finding by the ALJ was adopted by the Commission: There is no supporting medical report to indicate what additional medical treatment, if any, is recommended. As well, there is no medical opinion as to the cause of the claimant's current condition. There has been testimony by the claimant of a number of incidents where he was involved while in prison as well as a car accident. Any of these incidents could account for the claimant's current condition. After considering the testimony and evidence presented in this claim, I find that the claimant has failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that additional medical treatment is reasonable and necessary and related to the compensable injury in December 1992. The preponderance of the evidence weighs in favor that the various incidents the claimant has encountered with the car accident and since his incarceration, accounts for his need for treatment for his back condition if treatment is warranted. Because the Commission's opinion displays a substantial basis for the denial of the relief sought by appellant, we would affirm even if his abstract were not flagrantly deficient.