Frampton v. SCDNR

F

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA In The Court of Appeals Chisolm Frampton, Employee, Appellant, v. S.C. Department of Natural Resources, Employer, and S.C. State Accident Fund, Carrier, Respondents. Appellate Case No. 2017-001764 Appeal From The Workers' Compensation Commission Opinion No. 5726 Heard September 19, 2019 – Filed May 13, 2020 Withdrawn, Substituted and Refiled November 18, 2020 AFFIRMED John C. Land, III, of Land Parker Welch, LLC, of Manning, for Appellant. Kirsten Leslie Barr, of Trask & Howell, LLC, of Mount Pleasant, for Respondent. HILL, J.: In this workers' compensation case, the single commissioner found Chisholm Frampton failed to meet his burden of proof under S.C. Code Ann. § 42-9-35 (2015) to show his subsequent, on-the-job injury aggravated his preexisting neck condition. Nevertheless, the single commissioner found because the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) admitted the claim and provided medical treatment, Frampton was entitled to benefits for a 20% permanent partial disability to his spine. The appellate panel reversed, finding the single commissioner's conclusion that Frampton did not meet his burden of proof under § 42-9-35 was correct and, as an alternate ground for reversal, found because the finding was not appealed, it was the law of the case. The appellate panel therefore concluded Frampton was not entitled to benefits as a matter of law. Frampton now appeals the appellate panel's reversal of the single commissioner's award, arguing (1) the appellate panel erred in requiring him to prove a compensable injury to his spine after DNR admitted liability, and (2) the single commissioner erred by considering Frampton's return to work and subsequent promotions in determining his impairment rating. Because the appellate panel's decision is supported by substantial evidence, we affirm. I. Factual and Procedural Background On September 4, 2010, Frampton experienced neck pain and stiffness after riding in a pickup truck across a bumpy dove field he and another DNR officer were inspecting. He reported the incident to his supervisor and went to Doctor's Care three days later. The notes from that visit indicated Frampton was diagnosed with cervical and trapezius strains and that workers' compensation paid for the visit. Frampton was released back to work the same day with the restriction of "no overhead lifting." He went back to Doctor's Care ten days later for a follow-up visit, after which he was released to work full duty. On March 15, 2011, Frampton saw a neurosurgeon, Dr. Byron Bailey, who examined him for ongoing neck and arm pain. Frampton testified he was referred by workers' compensation to Dr. Bailey because his neck condition had not improved since the September 4, 2010 accident. Dr. Bailey's medical records, however, indicated he had treated Frampton before the dove field incident and was "following [Frampton] for cervical radiculopathy"1 and described Frampton as having symptoms of neck pain and right arm numbness that had "progressed from the study that was done approximately a year ago." The next day, Frampton underwent a series of tests whereby Dr. Bailey determined he would require spinal surgery. Dr. Bailey …

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