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Amec Foster Wheeler Kamtech, Inc. v. Chandler

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

October 4, 2019


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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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         Appeal from Escambia Circuit Court (CV-16-900090).

         Jeannie B. Walston and P. Andrew Laird, Jr., of Starnes Davis Florie LLP, Birmingham, for appellant.

          Robert C. King, Monroeville, for appellee.

         PER CURIAM.

         On November 16, 2015, Jimmy Chandler was employed as a welder by AMEC Foster Wheeler Kamtech, Inc. ("AMEC"). Chandler felt a pain in his back upon

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lifting a pipe. Chandler reported the accident to his foreman, who suggested that he "walk it off." The next day, Chandler reported to his foreman that he was still suffering back pain, and the foreman sent Chandler to "safety," where he completed forms and was given "bio-freeze" and a patch, which, Chandler said, did not alleviate his pain. A few days after the accident, AMEC sent Chandler to a local physician, Dr. Mark Roberts, who ultimately referred Chandler to Dr. James West, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spinal injury.

         Dr. West first evaluated Chandler on January 5, 2016. According to Dr. West, Chandler suffered from degenerative changes in his spine and had a "small protrusion" at the C6-7 vertebrae, a protrusion at the T7-8 vertebrae, and a protrusion at the L4-5 vertebrae. Dr. West believed that Chandler was suffering from chronic thoracolumbar strain and prescribed some medication and physical therapy. Dr. West restricted Chandler from lifting over 10 pounds and ordered that he avoid sweeping. After physical therapy was unsuccessful in improving Chandler's condition, Dr. West prescribed an epidural injection, which was administered on February 25, 2016. Dr. West prescribed a second epidural injection for Chandler on March 31, 2016. Chandler then missed three appointments, and, as a result, Dr. West placed Chandler at maximum medical improvement ("MMI") on June 14, 2016.

         In compliance with Dr. West's restrictions, AMEC placed Chandler on light duty in January 2016. However, Chandler suffered continuing pain that was exacerbated by his drive to work. He left AMEC's employ on January 11, 2016. At that time, AMEC was not paying Chandler any temporary workers' compensation benefits.

         Chandler testified that he had missed the appointments with Dr. West because he lacked transportation. He returned to Dr. West in August 2016, at which time he received another epidural injection. According to Dr. West, Chandler received further epidural injections in September 2016, January 2017, March 2017, and on February 2, 2018. Dr. West opined that Chandler had "markedly improved" after June 2016 and that Chandler would, as of the date of Dr. West's deposition in May 2018, "need [to seek] additional treatment... once or twice a year ... for an epidural or injections."

         Chandler worked for other employers between the conclusion of his employment with AMEC in January 2016 and the time of trial in July 2018. Chandler worked for TEI Construction Services, Inc. ("TEI"), at three different locations, during 2016 and 2017. He worked for TEI in Georgia for a total of three weeks in April and May 2016. Chandler worked for TEI in Louisiana for four weeks in July and August 2016, for TEI in South Carolina for five weeks during February, March, and April 2017, and again for TEI in Georgia for three weeks in April and May 2017. According to Chandler, however, he supervised other welders and inspected their welds but did not perform any welding himself during his employment with TEI at any location. In April and May 2018, Chandler worked for "PPM" in Nebraska, where, he said, he primarily supervised other welders, did "prefab work," and "lined everything out"; Chandler testified that a friend had gotten him that position. Chandler also worked for R & J Construction ("R & J") "off and on to try and keep my bills paid," where, he said, he supervised others and did "a little bit of mechanic work now and then." Chandler explained that R & J was owned by a lifelong friend, who, Chandler said, employed him whenever that friend could "afford to keep me

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on." Chandler testified that, with the assistance of his nephew, he had performed bulldozer work with his own bulldozer in July 2018.

         Chandler testified that his back pain prevented him from performing the tasks required for his previous position of precision or specialty welder. He explained that specialty welders often have to work in unusual positions in order to perform the welds required by their jobs. Chandler testified that he could not bend into the awkward positions often required, and, he said, he had begun to shake when in pain, which, he said, negatively impacted his ability to hold and operate his equipment and to properly weld. According to Chandler, he had historically worked as a welder on "shutdowns," which Chandler described as "when a power company or a paper mill has either breakdowns or routine scheduled maintenance to where [that company] shut[s] the mill down; ...

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