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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Jerome D. Allen was employed as a juvenile correction officer by the Texas Youth Commission. In March 2004, Allen was injured in the course and scope of his employment. The State Office of Risk Management (SORM), as the administrator of the Texas Youth Commission’s workers’ compensation program, accepted as compensable the injuries Allen claimed he sustained to his head and shoulder. The SORM disputed, however, the existence of any injury to Allen’s lower back associated with his accident at work. A contested case hearing was held before the Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission to determine whether Allen’s compensable injury included his lower back. The hearing officer held in favor of Allen and found that his compensable injury extended to his lower back. The SORM appealed the hearing officer’s decision to the appeals panel. The panel also held in favor of Allen and stated the hearing officer’s decision “should become the final decision of the Appeals Panel because it would otherwise be affirmed.” The SORM brought suit seeking judicial review of the appeals panel’s decision. The case was tried to a jury. The jury found, as did the hearing officer and appeals panel, that Allen’s compensable injury included his lower back. The SORM appealed again to the 5th Court of Appeals, contending that the trial court erred in admitting hearsay evidence and that factually insufficient evidence supported the jury’s verdict. HOLDING:Affirmed. The SORM’s first issue focused on the trial court’s admission into evidence of the decision and order rendered by the hearing officer and affirmed by the appeals panel. The SORM argued that the decision itself is hearsay and, in addition, contained hearsay evidence from two letters excluded by the trial court. According to the SORM, admission of the decision and order was harmful, because it was the only written evidence connecting Allen’s alleged lower back injury to his on-the-job accident. Specifically, in the “Background Information” section of the hearing officer’s decision, the officer summarized the evidence presented to him and included statements made in correspondence by Allen’s chiropractor, Dr. Wayne Mask, shortly after Allen’s accident. The written decision quotes the correspondence as stating that “due to the severity of his low back condition, [Allen] has been advised to avoid employment until 4-22-04.” First, the court noted that the quoted correspondence from Mask was not the only written medical evidence documenting Allen’s complaint of lower back pain following his accident at work. The hearing officer also admitted Allen’s medical records from his primary care physician Dr. Msonthi Levine, the court stated. Those records showed that in April 2004, several weeks after the incident, Allen sought medical treatment from Levine. In discussing Allen’s history, Levine noted that he had not seen Allen in some time and that, in the interim, Allen had been involved in a job-related accident. Levine stated Allen had neck pain with rotation and lower back pain that felt “like needles and pins.” In addition, the court noted that the Mask’s correspondence was admitted into evidence a second time through the testimony of SORM’s medical expert Dr. William Blair. Thus, the court found the admission of Mask’s correspondence to be harmless, because SORM failed to show that the judgment turned on the admission of the decision and order. The court then conducted a factual sufficiency review. SORM, the court noted, presented evidence that Allen had injured his back earlier in 1998 and again while working at a home improvement store sometime in late 2002 or early 2003. Nonetheless, the court stated, even if Allen had a pre-existing condition affecting his lower back, the aggravation of a pre-existing condition is a compensable injury. Thus, after reviewing all the evidence in the record, the court concluded that factually sufficient evidence supported the jury’s verdict in favor of Allen. OPINION:Morris, J.; Morris, Wright and Moseley, JJ.

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