mcdonald 998495 640

Cook Links Need for Surgery to Lifting ‘Bigger Woman’ off McDonald’s Floor

02 Oct, 2023 Chris Parker

mcdonald 998495 640

Wynne, AR ( – Just because an employee had a back injury in the past doesn’t mean his new back injury isn’t work-related. Employers and carriers should review medical records carefully before they argue that the employee’s injury preexisted his current accident.

A case involving a cook who injured his back lifting a heavy woman in McDonald’s v. Key, No. CV-22-640 (Ark. Ct. App. 09/20/23), is instructive.

In that case, on Nov. 1, 2019, a woman fell in a McDonalds foyer. While it may not have been one of the ingredients in his job description, someone ordered the cook to help the woman up from the floor.

The cook described the customer as a “bigger woman.” As he was lifting her, he felt several “pops” on the left side of his lower back. A doctor diagnosed him with disc bulges.

McDonald's accepted the injury as compensable and covered medical expenses through Dec. 4, 2019.
On December 4, the cook was sent to see another doctor. In his report, the doctor first confirmed the work-related nature of the injury and said the cook should be on light duty. However, he added the following addendum:

[The cook] stared screaming at my nurse referring to me as a stupid MFer and used terms of that nature multiple times and demanded his films back and demanded to leave … I refuse to see him again in the future … I am placing him at maximum medical improvement 12/4/2019 and at a full duty work status without restriction.

When the cook sought additional benefits, McDonalds disputed the claim. It pointed to the December doctor’s report and pointed out that the cook had a prior back injury.

The cook admitted that on Oct. 6, 2019, he went to the doctor for moderate low back pain that radiated into his right lower leg. The pain started when he was remodeling a house. The reported impression was: "lumbar radiculopathy, right.”

The Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission awarded the additional benefits, which included surgery.

The court explained that Arkansas law requires an employer to provide an employee with medical and surgical treatment "as may be reasonably necessary in connection with the injury received by the employee." Further, the employee is not required to offer objective medical evidence to prove entitlement to additional benefits.

The court agreed with the Commission that the cook was entitled to the benefits. In doing so, it noted the following:

+ McDonald's relied on the addendum in the December 4 doctor’s report. However, earlier in the very same report, the doctor stated that the patient “will have a very restricted light duty" and recommended further testing and treatment. The Commission found that "[b]ased on a review of the medical records, it is apparent that [the doctor’s change of mind] was simply a retaliation against claimant's 'deplorable conduct' displayed during the doctor visit.”

+ Although the cook reported low back pain during October 2019 `that predated the compensable injury, the cook returned to work on October 11 and continued to work until the admittedly compensable injury occurred.

+ The October 2019 medical report documented lower back pain that radiated into the cook’s right leg, whereas the new injury concerned lower back pain radiating into his left leg.

The court held that reasonable minds could conclude that the cook’s continuing need for medical treatment, including back surgery, was causally related to, and reasonably necessary for, treatment of a compensable aggravation of his November injury.

“Nothing in the record suggests that any doctor had recommended back surgery before the compensable injury occurred,” the court wrote.

It affirmed the Commission’s decision.

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