A state appeals court in Arkansas decided that a Walmart stocker’s gastrointestinal injuries, which led to further medical issues, were unrelated to his work and thus were not compensable under state workers’ compensation law.
Fred Nolen worked as a night stocker for Walmart.
Nolen’s workload was unusually heavy during a shift in June of 2018, when he was required to move pallets of water.
The next day, Nolen was again required to work with heavy product. This time, he had to move and stack bags of dog food that weighed between 50 and 55 pounds.
When he got home from work after the second day, Nolen noticed blood in his stool. He believed it was a symptom of an internal injury he suffered at work from moving the heavy product.
He went to work early that night to complete paperwork alleging that he had sustained a work-related injury. While he was there, he used a restroom. While in the restroom, he passed more blood and then fainted. When he passed out, he injured his right leg and suffered a cut on his head. A Walmart employee took him to a hospital, where he was placed in an intensive care unit and diagnosed as having iron-deficient anemia that was related to his blood loss.
He missed a few days of work, after which he returned but was restricted from lifting more than 25 pounds until he saw a gastroenterologist.
A gastroenterologist diagnosed Nolen as having hematochezia, or gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding. An orthopedic surgeon drained Nolen’s knee but did not recommend any further treatment. An x-ray of the knee showed only “very mild arthritic changes,” and Nolen was able to continue to work with the 25-pound lifting restriction in place.
Does He Get Benefits?
Nolen sought workers’ compensation benefits, alleging that he sustained a compensable injury of an intestinal bleed that led to additional compensable injuries to his knee and head.
An administrative law judge (ALJ) determined that Nolen did not meet his burden to prove that he sustained any compensable injuries. The ALJ concluded that Nolen’s hematochezia was idiopathic, meaning that it was personal in nature and was not connected to work. A state workers’ compensation commission affirmed and adopted the ALJ’s decision, after which Nolen sought court review.
A state appeals court affirmed.
It said there was not enough evidence to show that Nolen’s medical issues were related to work. It noted that he first experienced the bleeding while he was at home, and it said he did not point to a specific time, place or occurrence that established the requisite connection between his injuries and his employment.
The injuries Nolen sustained after passing out in the bathroom at work were not separate from the GI bleed, the court explained. Those injuries occurred because of the GI bleed, which was not compensable, it added. As a result, those additional injuries were not compensable either, it ruled.
The commission’s decision was affirmed.
Nolen v. Walmart Associates, 2021 Ark. App. 68 (Ark. Ct. App. 2021).