Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 02/26/2015
Format: 02/26/2015
Vaness Hobbs v. Auto-Owners Mutual Insurance Company
M2014-00532-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Ben H. Cantrell
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan

The sole issue presented in this workers’ compensation appeal is whether the trial court correctly found that the employee did not have a meaningful return to work. The employee, a Head Start teacher, sustained a compensable back injury.  She continued to work for about a year but then was not rehired because she had failed to meet a federal education mandate.  The trial court found that she had not made a meaningful return to work and awarded benefits in excess of one and one half times the an atomic alimpairment. Tenn. Code. Ann. § 50-6-241(d). The employer’s appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law in accordance with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We reverse the trial court’s finding and remand for entry of a judgment based on one and one-half times the anatomical impairment.

Montgomery County Workers Compensation Panel 01/23/15
Eddie Roy Davis v. Youth Emergency Shelter et al.
E2014-00133-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael A. Faulk

The trial court awarded permanent total disability benefits to the employee for bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. It apportioned the award between the employer and the Second Injury Fund. Both have appealed. Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, the appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. We affirm the trial court in its award for permanent and total disability benefits for a subsequent scheduled member injury.

Hamblen County Workers Compensation Panel 01/15/15
Sarah Elizabeth Adams v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00540-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly M. Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Nancy C. Miller-Herron, Commissioner

An employee injured her shoulder while working for her employer and failed to make a meaningful return to work. The Claims Commission awarded the employee 55% permanent partial disability. The employer appealed, arguing that the award is excessive 1 because the Commissioner erred in assessing an 11% anatomical impairment rating and in applying a five times multiplier. We modify the Commissioner’s judgment, and affirm as modified.

Workers Compensation Panel 01/05/15
Joseph E. Peek v. Tri-Green Equipment, LLC, et al
M2013-02731-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Paul G. Summers
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Maddux

An employee was exposed to a chemical in the course of his employment. He alleged that he developed a disabling pulmonary condition as a result of the exposure.  His employer denied that the condition was caused by the exposure. The trial court found for the employee and awarded permanent partial disability and other benefits.  The employer has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the finding of causation.  The appeal has been referred to the  Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51.  We affirm the judgment.  

Putnam County Workers Compensation Panel 12/30/14
Chad Seigmund v. Bellsouth Telecommunications, LLC, et al
M2014-00234-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Vanessa Jackson

In December 2011, Chad Seigmund (“Employee”) was involved in a motor vehicle accident in the course of his employment. His employer, Bellsouth Telecommunications, LLC (“Employer”) provided medical treatment but denied that Employee sustained permanent impairment or disability. Following a trial, the trial court found that Employee had sustained permanent disability and awarded Employee 16.5% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole. Employer has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the permanent disabilityfinding. In accordance with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, the appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Coffee County Workers Compensation Panel 12/30/14
Gary Collier v. McEvoy Funeral Home, Inc. et al.
W2014-00061-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don R. Ash

A funeral director sustained injuries to his shoulder and back while assisting with carrying a casket. His injury was accepted as compensable. Within a few days, he submitted a letter of resignation to his employer. After recovering from his injuries, he filed this action seeking permanent disability benefits. He also sought reconsideration of a previous settlement pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d). His employer asserted that the employee was not entitled to reconsideration of the earlier settlement and that any award for his later injury was subject to the one and one-half times impairment cap because of his voluntary resignation. The trial court found that the employee did not voluntarily resign, granted the petition for reconsideration, and awarded benefits for the second injury in excess of the cap. The employer appealed. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Carroll County Workers Compensation Panel 12/29/14
John Moran v. United Parcel Service, Inc., et al
M2014-00039-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Paul G. Summers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry Wallace

An employee injured his left shoulder in 2005. He returned to work for his employer and settled his workers’ compensation claim. In 2011, he had recurrent symptoms in the shoulder. Eventually, hemade a claimfor benefits, alleging thathehad sustained a new injury. His employer contended that his symptoms were caused by the earlier injury and that he was entitled only to medical care under the previous settlement.  The trial court found that the employee had sustained a new injury and awarded permanent partialand temporary total disability benefits. Theemployerhas appealed. Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, the appeal has been referred to the SpecialWorkers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report offindings of fact and conclusions of law.  We affirm the judgment.

Cheatham County Workers Compensation Panel 12/26/14
James Patterson v. Prime Package & Label Co., LLC
M2013-01527-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice William C. Koch, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Mark Rogers

This workers’ compensation appeal involves the application of the recently enacted pain management provisions of Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-204(j) (2014). An employee who sustained a work-related injury in 2007 settled his workers’ compensation claim with his employer in 2010. The settlement enabled the employee to continue receiving pain management treatment from a physician in Lebanon, Tennessee. The employee moved to Vonore, Tennessee in late 2012. Because his pain-management physician was now 162 miles away, the employee requested his former employer to provide a new panel of pain management physicians closer to his new residence. The employer declined, citing Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-204(j)(2)(A) that exempts pain-management physicians who live within 175 miles of the employee from the general statutory “community” residence requirement. The employee filed a motion in the Circuit Court for Rutherford County to compel the employer to provide a new doctor. The trial court held that the new 175-mile rule did not apply to the employee’s claim and ordered the employer to provide a new panel of pain management physicians. The employer has appealed to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel in accordance with Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 51. We reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Rutherford County Workers Compensation Panel 12/22/14
Toney R. Gonzales v. J.W. Carell Enterprises, LLC d/b/a Careall Home Care Services-Knoxville/McMinnville
E2013-02072-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dale Workman

In this workers’ compensation action, the employee alleged that he suffered a compensable injury to his lower back. The trial court ruled for the employer, finding that the employee was not a credible witness and had failed to carry his burden of proof. The employee appealed to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. At issue in this appeal is whether the trial court abused its discretion by admitting into evidence records from the employee’s Social Security Disability proceedings and whether the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s decision that the employee failed to sustain his burden of proof. After a careful review, we find no error and affirm the trial court’s decision.

Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 12/17/14
Kevin Hudson v. Kroger Limited Partnership I
W2013-02181-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
Trial Court Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin

An employee injured his head, neck, and back in a tractor-trailer accident while working for his employer. The employee was ultimately diagnosed with a nerve-entrapment condition, which the employer denied was caused by the accident. The trial court found in the employee’s favor and awarded benefits. The employer appeals asserting that the trial court erred in excluding the expert testimony of an accident reconstruction engineer on the issue of causation. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the trial court erred by excluding portions of the expert’s testimony. Despite the error, the judgment of the trial court is supported by a preponderance of the evidence and is affirmed.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 11/24/14
Thomas L. Keller v. Thyssenkrupp Elevator Corporation
W2013-02529-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Martha B. Brasfield

An employee sustained a work-related injury to his back and leg and returned to work but eventually resigned due to his continued back and leg pain. The trial court found that the employee established a compensable injury, did not have a meaningful return to work, and awarded sixty-eight percent permanent partial disability benefits. The employer appealed, alleging that the trial court erred in finding that the employee did not have a meaningful return to work and in awarding excessive benefits. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Hardeman County Workers Compensation Panel 11/21/14
C. Douglas Jones v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc.
E2013-02451-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Deborah C. Stevens
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Michael W. Moyers

The employee alleged that he sustained a compensable back injury when a stool on which he was sitting collapsed, causing him to fall to the ground. His treating physician opined that he sustained permanent impairment as a result of the incident. Two evaluating doctors opined that his symptoms were related to a prior motor vehicle accident. The employee had not informed the treating physician of the prior motor vehicle accident nor of his prior history of back pain. The trial court found that he did not suffer a compensable injury. The employee has appealed. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment.

Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 11/20/14
Teresa G. Moore v. Knox County Government, et al.
E2013-01552-SC-WC-R3
Authoring Judge: Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
Trial Court Judge: Judge Harold Wimberly

The employee sustained a compensable shoulder injury when she fell from a ladder while removing Christmas decorations. The trial court determined that the employee had sustained a 7% anatomical impairment, awarded her 21% permanent partial disability (“PPD”) benefits, and denied her claim for temporary disability benefits. The employer has appealed, asserting that the trial court erred by awarding benefits in excess of one and one-half times the anatomical impairment. The employee contends that the trial court erred by denying her temporary disability claim. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We conclude that the trial court erred by awarding PPD benefits in excess of one and one-half times the impairment. We affirm the judgment in all other respects.

Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 11/12/14
Patricia Hawkins v. Maury County Board of Education, et al.
M2013-01083-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.

The employee filed a workers compensation action alleging that she suffered a lower back injury in the course of her employment as a school counselor. Her employer denied the claim. The trial court found that the employee failed to prove that the injury had occurred in the course and scope of her employment and dismissed the case. Judgment was entered accordingly, and the employee appealed. The appeal was referred to the Special Workers Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Maury County Workers Compensation Panel 10/23/14
Dana Automotive Systems Group, LLC, et al. v. Larry Evans
W2013-01960-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. S. "Steve" Daniel
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

An employee developed carpal tunnel syndrome while working as a welder and supervisor for his employer. Prior to receiving medical treatment and unrelated to the injury, the employer gave the employee a choice to retire or potentially lose his substantial pension. The trial court held that the Medical Impairment Registry physician’s rating was incorrect and that the statutory one and one-half cap on permanent partial disability benefits did not apply. The employer appealed.  After a thorough review of the record, we reverse in part and affirm in part.

Gibson County Workers Compensation Panel 10/02/14
Russell Kyle v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Company
W2013-01505-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Childers

An insurance adjuster was injured when he fell from a ladder after inspecting a roof for his employer. Consistent with a voluntary agreement with his employer, the employee received sick leave payments in lieu of temporary total disability payments. After returning to work for two months, the employee retired. In addition to the employee’s medical records, the parties introduced into evidence the deposition of a physician selected through the Medical Impairment Registry. The physician assigned an impairment of nine percent to the body as a whole. The trial court, however, awarded permanent disability benefits based on an impairment of fourteen percent and awarded additional temporary total disability benefits. The trial court also granted the employer a setoff for payments made to the employee pursuant to his accrued sick leave. The employer appealed. We conclude that the trial court erred by awarding a set-off of the payments made under the employer’s sick leave policy and by adopting an impairment rating other than that assigned by the MIR physician. We remand the case for additional proceedings and findings by the trial court.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 10/02/14
Kristen Ball v. Regions Financial Corporation, et al.
W2013-02454-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hope B. Calabro

An employee fell in the bathroom at her place of employment and reported pain in her right shoulder and hip. She was treated and released by her authorized physician. Approximately five months after the fall, she developed left knee pain. Five more months later, she developed pain her left hip and lower back. The employee’s knee and back conditions ultimately required surgery, but her employer denied that the fall at work caused her conditions. The trial court disagreed and awarded benefits for the knee and back injuries. The employer appealed. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding that the employee sustained a permanent, work-related injury to her back. We otherwise affirm the judgment of the trial court and remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 10/02/14
Ben J. Mosby v. McDowell Center for Children
W2012-02715-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Paul G. Summers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Martha B. Brasfield

The employee alleged that he sustained a compensable workers’ compensation injury to his left shoulder and knee from a fall at work. The employer denied the claim. The trial court found that the employee did not comply with the notice statute, Tenn. Code Ann. §50-6-201(a)(2008) and dismissed the claim. The employee has appealed, contending that the trial court’s notice ruling was erroneous. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law in accordance with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We find that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s finding and affirm the judgment.

Lauderdale County Workers Compensation Panel 10/02/14
Timothy Richard Plotner v. Metal Prep
W2012-02595-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter L. Evans

An employee contracted a lung condition while working as a forklift operator for his employer. After the employee’s treating physician informed him that the condition was caused by exposure to grain dust produced by a grain facility adjacent to the employer’s workplace, the employee filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. The employer denied his claim, contending that it was not liable for the conditions that led to the injury. The trial court concluded that the employee’s condition rendered him permanently and totally disabled, and the employer appealed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 09/29/14
Darlene Poindexter v. Roadway Express d/b/a YRC, Inc., et al.
W2013-01968-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Judge William C. Cole

An employee asserted that she sustained a compensable injury while working as a truck driver for her employer. The employer denied the claim, contending that the employee did not sustain a compensable injury but only aggravated a pre-existing condition. The trial court entered a judgment in the employer’s favor, and the employee appealed. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Tipton County Workers Compensation Panel 09/29/14
Dannie Joyner v. Erachem Comilog, Inc. et al.
M2013-02646-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Burch

The plaintiff sought workers’ compensation benefits, alleging thathe had developed diseases of the skin, lungs, and nervous system as a result of his exposure to nickel, cadmium, and manganese during his employment at a manufacturing facility owned by the defendant. The trial court found that the plaintiff had failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his diseases were caused byexposure to these substances during his employment and entered judgment for the defendant. The plaintiff has appealed from the trial court’s decision. Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, the appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Humphreys County Workers Compensation Panel 09/22/14
Jo Dean Nuchols v. Blount County, Tennessee
E2013-00574-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Ben H. Cantrell
Trial Court Judge: Judge Harold Wimberly

An employee alleged that she sustained a mental injury as a result of a confrontation with her supervisor, the Sheriff of Blount County. The trial court found that she had failed to provide notice of her injury as required by Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-201 (Supp. 2001) and dismissed her complaint. The trial court made an alternative finding that she was permanently and totally disabled as a result of the incident. The employee has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding on the notice issue. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court dismissing the employee’s claim.

Blount County Workers Compensation Panel 09/19/14
Michael Corey Peterson v. McMillan's Roofing and HVAC
E2013-02130-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor John F. Weaver

After recovering from a work-related injury, the employee returned to work for his pre-injury employer but resigned after only a few days. Later, he made a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. At the conclusion of the proof, the trial court ruled that the employee was deprived of a meaningful return to work and awarded benefits in excess of one and one-half times his physical medical impairment rating. The employer has appealed, asserting that the trial court erred by so finding and that the one and one-half times cap should apply. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 08/25/14
Madia Dia v. Imports Collision Center, Inc.
M2013-01496-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge J. B. Cox
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.

Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, this workers’ compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law.  Employee filed a request for reconsideration pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-241(d)(1)(B), which Employer opposed on the ground that Employee’s loss of employment was due to Employee’s voluntary resignation and/or his employment-related misconduct.  The trial court ruled that Employer failed to carry its burden of proof as to either of the asserted grounds for denying reconsideration.  The trial court therefore granted Employee’s request for reconsideration and awarded increased benefits.  Based on our review of the entire record, we reverse the trial court’s judgment.
 

Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 08/20/14
Jerry Simons v. A. O. Smith Corporation
M2013-01350-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge J. B. Cox
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

An employee alleged he injured his back on two occasions during late 2008.  His employer initially accepted the second claim as compensable, but then denied the claim after receiving records from the employee’s primary care physician. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development denied the employee’s Request for Assistance. This civil action was subsequently filed in the Chancery Court for Montgomery County. That court awarded workers’ compensation benefits to the employee. The employer has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s findings concerning causation and permanency. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law in accordance with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 

Montgomery County Workers Compensation Panel 08/20/14