Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 11/27/2014
Format: 11/27/2014
Judy McClendon v. Food Lion, LLC
E2013-00380-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, Sr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Frank Brown, III

Employee settled her workers’ compensation claim in 1997, with her employer agreeing to provide future medical benefits. Her authorized treating physician later retired, and in November 2007, the employee selected a new physician from a panel provided by her employer. The new physician recommended a home exercise program, which the employee believed was not adequate treatment. She filed a petition requesting a new panel of physicians. Her employer opposed the petition, contending that it had provided treatment in accordance with the law and the terms of the settlement. The trial court ordered the employer to provide a panel of orthopaedic surgeons to evaluate the employee’s current need for treatment. The employer has appealed, and 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 and remand for further proceedings.

Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 07/11/14
Mary Wheetley v. State of Tennessee
M2013-01707-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice William C. Koch, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Tennessee Claims Commission

This appeal involves a claim for workers’ compensation benefits filed by a nurse employed
at the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute. The nurse filed a claim with the Tennessee
Claims Commission because she believed that she had contracted tuberculosis when her hand came into contact with a patient’s blood. The claims commissioner dismissed the nurse’s claim on the basis that she failed to produce expert medical evidence that she had
tuberculosis, and the nurse sought judicial review under Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 51. We affirm the
judgment of the Claims Commission.

Workers Compensation Panel 06/25/14
Sheila Cameron v. Memorial Health Care Systems,Inc., et al.
E2013-01225-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Ben H. Cantrell, Sr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence H. Puckett

A registered nurse sustained a compensable injury to her neck. The trial court found that she was permanently and totally disabled as a result of the injury. Her employer has appealed, contending that the trial court erred by failing to cap the award at oneand- one-half times the impairment rating pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d)(1)(A). In the alternative, the employer asserts that the trial court erred by awarding permanent total disability benefits. 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.

Bradley County Workers Compensation Panel 06/10/14
Marvin Windows of Tennessee v. Bobby L. Williams
W2013-02193-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge J.S. "Steve" Daniel
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph H. Walker, III

An employee suffered a work-related injury to his back. The employer acknowledged that the injury was compensable but disputed the extent of permanent partial impairment and the reasonableness of the employee’s decision to take early retirement. The trial court awarded the employee 28% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole, and the employer
appealed, contending that the trial court erred in failing to cap the award at one-and-one-half times the anatomical impairment pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d). The employee also appeals, arguing that the trial court erroneously concluded that he was not permanently and totally disabled. After a careful review of the record, we affirm the trial court’s determination that the employee is permanently and partially disabled. We reverse, however, the trial court’s determination that the statutory cap of one-and-one-half times the anatomical impairment rating does not apply and remand to the trial court for a determination of the employee’s vocational disability consistent with this opinion.

Lauderdale County Workers Compensation Panel 06/05/14
Johann G. Merx v. Duro Standard Products Co., Inc.
W2013-00666-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Donald E. Parish
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

An employee sustained a work-related injury after a mechanical loading dock malfunctioned and a dock plate struck him in the knee. His employer denied the claim, contending that the event could not have occurred in the manner described by the employee. The trial court ruled in favor of the employer and dismissed the employee’s complaint. The trial court also entered alternative findings if causation were proven, limiting the employee’s recovery to 1.5% vocational disability. The employee has appealed. We reverse and remand the case for entry of a judgment consistent with the trial court’s alternative findings.

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 05/15/14
Bobby R. Bean v. Johnson Controls, Inc. et al.
M2013-01010-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice William C. Koch, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor J. B. Cox

This appeal involves the compensability of an alleged aggravation of a pre-existing degenerative back condition. After the employee began experiencing increased and more severe pain in his back, he filed a workers’ compensation claim in the Chancery Court for Marshall County against his employer, its insurer, and the Second Injury Fund. Following a bench trial, the trial court awarded the employee temporary total and permanent partial disability benefits. 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 pursuant to Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Marshall County Workers Compensation Panel 04/30/14
Dennie Stough v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company
W2012-02275-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Ben H. Cantrell
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Michael Maloan

An employee sustained a compensable lower back injury, had surgery, returned to work, and settled his claim. Several months later, he re-injured his lower back. After several surgical procedures, he was unable to return to work. He filed this action for workers’ compensation benefits against his employer and the Second Injury Fund. The trial court awarded permanent total disability benefits, apportioning 50% of the award to the employer and 50% to the Fund. The Fund has appealed, contending that the trial court erred by assigning any liability to it because the later injury rendered the employee  totally disabled without regard to the first injury. We conclude that the trial court failed to provide the basis for its apportionment of liability between the Fund and the employer. We therefore reverse the trial court’s judgment to that extent and remand the case for further consideration on this issue.

Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 04/11/14
Jose Umanzor v. Zurich American Insurance Company et al.
W2012-02568-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Janice M. Holder
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

An employee asserted that he injured his lower back while working as a construction laborer for his employer. Approximately two years after the incident, the employee provided written notice of his injury to his employer. The employer denied the claim, contending that the employee failed to give timely notice of his injury and that his claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The trial court agreed with the employer and entered judgment in its favor. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 04/10/14
Jennifer Gray v. Zanini Tennessee, Inc.
M2013-00762-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jeffrey F. Stewart

The trial court dismissed the employee’s workers’ compensation action because the employee had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies prior to filing suit as required by Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-203(a)(1) (2008). The employee’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 affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Franklin County Workers Compensation Panel 04/01/14
Associated Wholesale Grocers v. Lawrence F. Ling
M2013-01317-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle

In this workers’ compensation action, the employee alleged that he sustained a compensable aggravation of his pre-existing spinal condition. The trial court ruled that he failed to satisfy his burden of proof and dismissed the complaint. 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 in accordance with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 04/01/14
David DeGalliford v. United Cabinet Company, LLC et al.
M2013-00943-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda McClendon

In early 2012, an employee alleged that he suffered a gradual injury to his cervical spine due to strenuous repetitive tasks and heavy lifting required by his employment. He reported the injury to his employer, who denied the claim on the basis that the injury was not compensable under Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-102(12)(C)(ii) (Supp. 2011). This statute, which applies to injuries occurring after July 1, 2011, provides that “cumulative trauma conditions” do not include injuries resulting from repetitive work activities “unless such conditions arose primarily out of and in the course and scope of employment.” The employee’s treating physician testified that the employee’s repetitive tasks at work were the primary cause of his injury. Another doctor, however, who examined the employee’s medical records on behalf of his employer, testified that the employee’s injury was caused by a degenerative disc disease common in the aging process. The trial court ruled for the employee, and the employer appealed. 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. We hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it relied on the testimony of the employee’s treating physician, who testified that the employee’s work activities were the primary cause of the employee’s injuries. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 03/17/14
George Hollars v. United Parcel Service, Inc., et al.
M203-00144-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor C. K. Smith

In this workers’ compensation appeal the employer asserts that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding that the employee’s injury was permanent. The employee, a package car driver for United Parcel Service, experienced two episodes of heat exhaustion while at work. The trial court found the heat exhaustion to be permanent and awarded benefits for permanent partial disability and 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 reverse the decision of the trial court.

Wilson County Workers Compensation Panel 03/07/14
Alvin Hayes v. Sharp Transport Co. and Cherokee Insurance Co.
M2013-00932-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Stella Hargrove

In accordance with 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 suffered compensable injuries to his lower back and right shoulder. Employer asserted that the permanent disability award for employee’s injury should be capped at one and one half times his impairment rating because employee had voluntarily resigned. Following a bench trial the trial court found that the statutory cap of one and one half times did not apply to employee’s permanent partial disability benefits because employee’s retirement was reasonably related to his workplace injury and therefore he did not have a meaningful return to work. Based on an impairment rating of eleven percent the trial court awarded 35 percent permanent partial disability benefits. We find there was a meaningful return to work and accordingly we reverse the trial court judgment.

Lawrence County Workers Compensation Panel 02/20/14