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Atkins-January v. State Office of Risk Management

Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont

August 3, 2017

LISA ATKINS-JANUARY, Appellant
v.
STATE OFFICE OF RISK MANAGEMENT, Appellee

          Submitted on June 20, 2017

         On Appeal from the 60th District Court Jefferson County, Texas Trial Cause No. B-197, 001

          Before McKeithen, C.J., Kreger and Johnson, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          LEANNE JOHNSON, Justice.

         Lisa Atkins-January (January or Appellant) filed this appeal complaining of an order granting summary judgment in favor of the Texas State Office of Risk Management (SORM or Appellee) and dismissing all of Appellant's workers' compensation claims with prejudice. We affirm.

         Background

         January is a former employee of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). SORM serves as the workers' compensation insurance carrier for TDCJ. On November 17, 2012, while employed by TDCJ, January sustained a work-related injury when she tripped and fell. After pursuing a workers' compensation claim, a hearing officer of the Texas Department of Insurance-Division of Workers' Compensation ("the Division") concluded as follows:

The credible evidence established that the compensable injury includes a right elbow contusion, a left elbow contusion, a left hip injury, and a right ankle sprain/strain. The credible evidence did not establish that the compensable injury includes left knee internal derangement and an HNP at L4-L5.

         On December 16, 2014, the hearing officer signed a decision and order that contained findings of fact and conclusions of law. The decision explained that

[t]he claimant did not present a doctor's testimony or written statement which explains how the on-the-job accident/mechanism of injury caused or aggravated these two conditions. As a result, she failed to prove that the compensable injury includes left knee internal derangement or an HNP at L4-L5.

         The Appeals Panel of the Division subsequently affirmed the hearing officer's decision and order, making the hearing officer's decision the "final decision" effective March 9, 2015.

         January then filed the instant lawsuit in April of 2015, seeking judicial review of the Division's final decision with respect to the extent of her injuries caused by the on-the-job accident in 2012. SORM filed an answer and propounded written discovery seeking, in relevant part, information related to the causation of January's claimed conditions.

         SORM filed a no-evidence motion for summary judgment in August of 2016, after the applicable discovery period had expired. Therein, SORM argued that

. . . no evidence has been produced or disclosed and none exists[] which could support the conclusion, within a reasonable degree of medical probability, that the conditions claimed by the Plaintiff of left knee internal derangement and HNP at L4-L5 would not have resulted or have been aggravated but for her work-related injury of November 17, 201[2]. As such, given the absolute lack of evidence in support of causation of the claimed medical conditions in this case, an essential element to the ...

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