Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 12/20/2014
Format: 12/20/2014
Tony Wayne Wilson v. Bill Jennings et al.
E2010-02028-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

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. In this case, the employee alleged that he was working as a carpenter for the defendant, Wayne Neeley, when he fell from the roof of a house and seriously injured his right ankle. Neeley denied that he was the employer and also denied that he was a subcontractor for the defendant, B & L Construction, the general contractor. The trial court held that the employee was employed by Neeley and that Neeley was a subcontractor of B & L Construction. Because Neeley did not have workers’ compensation insurance, the trial court found B & L Construction liable for workers’ compensations benefits pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-113 and awarded both temporary total disability benefits and accrued medical expenses, but nothing else. On appeal, the employee contends that the trial court erred by failing to award permanent disability benefits and future medical benefits. In response, the defendant contends that the trial court erred by awarding temporary disability benefits. We hold that the trial court properly awarded temporary total benefits, but erred by failing to award permanent disability benefits and future medical benefits to the employee. The judgment is reversed in part and the case is remanded for further proceedings.

Bradley County Workers Compensation Panel 03/06/12
Timothy D. Cunningham v. City of Savannah, Tennessee, et al.
W2010-02411-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Janice M. Holder
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

The employee, an undercover drug investigator for the City of Savannah, alleged that he sustained a heart attack as a result of a physical confrontation with a suspect on March 2, 2005, during which he experienced tightness in his chest and shortness of breath. He experienced pressure in his chest and low energy but continued to work the following two days. On March 5, while engaged in activities unrelated to his job, he experienced nausea, profuse sweating, and severe pain in his chest, jaw, and left arm. His wife took him to a hospital emergency room where he was treated for an acute myocardial infarction. At trial, one of his treating physicians testified that the heart attack began on March 2 and continued until March 5. A second treating physician and an evaluating physician testified that the March 2 incident did not cause the March 5 heart attack. The trial court found that the heart attack began on March 2, and the employer appealed. On appeal, the employer contends that the trial court erred in finding that the statutory presumption had not been overcome, erred in concluding that employee’s heart attack began on March 2, 2005, and erred by finding that employee’s heart attack was causally related to his employment. Although we agree that the trial court erred in its application of the statutory presumption, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hardin County Workers Compensation Panel 02/28/12
Vonetta Mousseau v. Davita, Inc.
W2010-02612-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz
Trial Court Judge: Judge William C. Cole

The employee, a registered nurse, injured her neck and lower back when she slipped and fell in a pool of water. She had surgical fusions of the cervical and lumbar spine. She continued to have serious symptoms for which she received numerous medications. Her treating physician testified that she was incapable of performing any nursing functions, including those that required only sedentary work. The trial court found her to be permanently and totally disabled. Her employer has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding on disability and that the employee should be held to have been offered a meaningful return to work. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hardeman County Workers Compensation Panel 02/21/12
Kenneth Stewart v. Westfield Insurance Company
W2011-00327-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Butler

The appellant insurance company asserts on appeal that the employee failed to prove that his spinal infection was causally related to any work-place injury and that he also failed to provide the employer with timely notice of his injury. Based upon our review of the record, we conclude that the expert medical proof establishes causation and that the evidence supports the trial court’s finding that the employee gave timely notice of his injury. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 02/16/12
George McGowan v. State of Tennessee
W2011-00869-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Tony A. Childress
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner Nancy C. Miller-Herron

An employee was exposed to smoke as a result of a fire at his workplace. Testing revealed the presence of bullous emphysema, a dangerous condition caused by cigarette smoking. Surgery was required to treat that condition. The Claims Commission ruled that the smoke exposure at work had aggravated and advanced his preexisting lung disease and awarded permanent total disability benefits. The employer has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner’s finding of causation. We agree and reverse the judgment.

Workers Compensation Panel 02/15/12
Doyle Allen Castle v. Sullivan County Sheriff's Department
E2011-00988-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge John S. McLellan, III

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. The employee, a sheriff’s deputy, alleged that he sustained a mental injury as a result of a confrontation that occurred while he was serving an eviction warrant. His employer denied the claim and filed a motion for summary judgment, contending that the injury was not compensable because the alleged precipitating event was not unusual or abnormal for a deputy. The trial court granted summary judgment for the employer. On appeal, the employee contends that the trial court erred by concluding that there was not a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the incident in question was sufficiently extraordinary or unusual to support a mental injury claim. Because there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the injury qualified as extraordinary and unusual or was merely the result of stress ordinarily experienced in the line of duty, the judgment is reversed, and the cause is remanded for trial.

Sullivan County Workers Compensation Panel 02/15/12
James E. Sanders v. Lodgenet Interactive Corporation, et al
M2011-00725-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Tom E. Gray

In this workers’ compensation action, the employee alleged that he sustained compensable injuries to his neck and lower back as a result of a March 29, 2007 automobile accident. His employer denied that the employee had any permanent impairment or disability due to the accident. The employer sought an evaluation through the Medical Impairment Registry, but the doctor selected for the evaluation declined to assess impairment because he did not find the employee to be at maximum medical improvement. The employer sought a continuance of the previously-scheduled trial. The trial court denied that motion. The trial court ruled for the employee and awarded disability benefits. On appeal, the employer argues that the trial court erred by denying its motion to continue and by awarding permanent disability benefits. We affirm the judgment.

Sumner County Workers Compensation Panel 02/10/12
Mohamud Hirsi Mohamed v. Taxi USA of Tennessee, LLC d/b/a Allied Car Company, et al
M2010-02062-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe P. Binkley

In this case, the plaintiff, a taxi driver injured in a motor vehicle accident, sought workers’ compensation benefits from the taxi company that he alleged employed him. The trial court held that he was an independent contractor and dismissed the complaint. The plaintiff appealed. We affirm the judgment.

Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 02/10/12
Rochelle M. Evans v. Ford Motor Company
M2010-02254-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia C. Bonnyman

The employee sought reconsideration of her workers’ compensation settlement. The trial court found that she had voluntarily resigned and was therefore not eligible to receive reconsideration. The employee has appealed. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.
 

Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 02/10/12
Teton Transportation, Inc. v. Todd White
E2010-02522-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
Trial Court Judge: Judge Telford E. Forgety, 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. The employee alleged that he injured his back at work. His employer denied the claim. While the trial court found that the employee was not a credible witness, it found that he had sustained a compensable injury based upon the testimony of an independent lay witness and the treating physician. The trial court awarded 78% permanent partial disability benefits. The employer has appealed, asserting that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding of compensability. We affirm the judgment.

Blount County Workers Compensation Panel 02/07/12
Tammy L. Lee v. Dura Operating Corporation, et al
M2011-00358-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge D. J. Alissandratos
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

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. Tammy L. Lee (“Employee”) alleges that she suffered an injury to her cervical spine while she was employed as a factory worker by Dura Operating Corporation (“Employer”). Employer denies that Employee’s cervical spine injury was caused by her employment with Employer. The trial court determined that Employee’s cervical spine condition was a work-related aggravation of her pre-existing degenerative disc disease. The trial court awarded Employee temporary total benefits from November 8, 2007, to February 8, 2008. Finding that Employee had not been able to return to work, the trial court refused to apply the statutory cap and awarded Employee permanent partial disability benefits of 69% to the body as a whole, three times her anatomical impairment rating of 23% to the body as a whole. Finding that the evidence preponderates against the trial court's determination of causation, we reverse the trial court’s judgment.
 

Lawrence County Workers Compensation Panel 02/01/12
Marie Akins v. Whirlpool Corporation
M2011-01258-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge D. J. Alissandratos
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Corlew

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. Marie Akins (“Employee”) alleges that she developed carpal tunnel syndrome in her left wrist while employed as a factory worker by Whirlpool Corporation (“Employer”), prior to the closure of Employer’s plant in August 2008. Employer denies that Employee’s carpal tunnel syndrome in her left wrist was caused by her employment with it. The trial court found that Employee’s left-wrist carpal tunnel syndrome was not caused by her employment with Employer and that Employer therefore is not liable for this injury. Employee has appealed, contending both that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding and that Employer is estopped from denying liability based on delay in the diagnosis of Employee’s carpal tunnel syndrome in her left wrist. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.
 

Rutherford County Workers Compensation Panel 02/01/12
Melissa Hamlin v. Windsor Forestry Tools, Inc., et al.
W2011-00024-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz
Trial Court Judge: Judge George R. Ellis

The employee injured her back at work and the injury required surgical treatment. The employee returned to work but was later terminated for violation of her employer’s attendance and absenteeism policy. The trial court found the employee did not have a meaningful return to work. The trial court, however, adopted the impairment rating that the employee’s evaluating physician expressed and awarded 90% permanent partial disability benefits, the maximum award permitted by Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d). The employer has appealed, contending that the trial court erred by adopting the evaluating physician’s impairment rating, by its use of the six-times multiplier on the basis of facts not in evidence, and by finding that the employee did not have a meaningful return to work. We agree that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s findings concerning employee’s impairment and the six-times multiplier. Accordingly, we modify the award.

Gibson County Workers Compensation Panel 12/20/11