The Supreme Court of Alaska ruled Friday that Walmart Associates Inc. must continue to provide benefits to a security guard who in 2016 was shot in the face with a pellet gun in an altercation at a store in Eagle Ridge, Alaska, and continues to suffer both physically and mentally, calling earlier rulings on treatment “frivolous.”
While the worker, who suffered because the pellet was lodged near the optic nerve of his right eye and could not be surgically removed, received treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and pain, Walmart “contended that he was not disabled by the psychological injury,” among other claims documented in No. 7490, filed in Anchorage.
After an ophthalmologist retained by Walmart “questioned specific pain-related medical care,” the employer contested pain medicine, which the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board permitted, finding that “found the employer had not unfairly or frivolously” done so. The board also denied the worker’s request for disability during periods of time when his eye doctors said he had the physical capacity to perform his duties, according to documents.
The Alaska Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission affirmed the Board’s decision, stating that Walmart was justified in denying payment for pain medication and had successful rebutted the presumption that the worker’s mental injury was caused by the physical injury — because he had continuing working. Documents also provide testimony from the worker that he continued to suffer mentally.
The state’s highest court reversed, writing that “none” of the medical opinions the Board relied on “said anything about (the worker’s) PTSD-related disability and thus were not substantial evidence to rebut the presumption that (he) continued to be disabled by his psychological condition.” The case was remanded for recalculation of benefits and medical treatment, which were denied based on insufficient medical evidence, according to the ruling.