Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 08/21/2014
Format: 08/21/2014
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
James Terry Johnson v. American Telephone and Telegraph Company, Inc., d/b/a AT&T, Inc.
W2011-00468-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Tony A. Childress
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Butler

An employee suffered a partial amputation of his left index finger. Compensability of the injury was not contested. At trial, the employee argued that his disability award should be apportioned to the hand. His employer contended that the award should be limited to the index finger. The trial court agreed with the employee and awarded 52% permanent partial disability to the hand. The employer appealed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 12/20/11
Anita Berkley Rhodes v. Careall, Inc., et al.
W2010-02192-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Tony A. Childress
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Butler

An employee alleged that she sustained a right- and left-side hernia while working. Her employer denied the claim for the left-side hernia. The trial court held that both the right- and left-side hernias were compensable and awarded permanent partial disability benefits. The employer appealed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 12/20/11
Daniel Boyd Davidson v. Business Personnel Solutions
E2010-02366-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas J. Seeley, Jr.

The employee, who sustained injuries while removing tree limbs at a job site, filed a claim for workers’ compensation. The employer denied benefits, contending that the injury was the result of the employee’s intoxication and misconduct. While concluding that the employee was not guilty of willful misconduct, the trial court ruled that his intoxication was a proximate cause of the injuries and, therefore, denied the claim. The employee appealed, alleging that the trial court erred by finding that he was intoxicated at the time of his injuries and that the intoxication was the proximate cause. This appeal was referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6- 225(e)(3) and Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. Because the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s finding that the employee was intoxicated and his intoxication proximately caused his injuries, the judgment is affirmed.

Washington County Workers Compensation Panel 12/12/11
Dewey Gibson, Jr. v. Hidden Mountain Resort, Inc.
E2010-02561-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge O. Duane Slone

The employee sought workers’ compensation for a back injury which arose out of and in the scope of his employment with the employer. The trial court found that because the employee had a meaningful return to work and was subsequently dismissed for job misconduct, he was limited to benefits of 1.5 times the 20% anatomical impairment rating. The evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s factual findings; the judgment is, therefore, affirmed.

Sevier County Workers Compensation Panel 12/12/11
Robert Bright v. Shoun Trucking Company, Inc.
E2011-00542-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. G. Moody

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 truck driver, filed suit for benefits, alleging that he developed bilateral rotator cuff tears and carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of his job responsibilities. His employer contended that his injuries were not related to his employment. At the conclusion of the evidence, the trial court found in favor of the employee and awarded 50% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole. The employer has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s findings (1) that the injuries arose out of and in the course of employment, and (2) that five times the medical impairment was appropriate under the circumstances. Because the evidence does not preponderate against the findings of the trial judge, the judgment is affirmed.

Sullivan County Workers Compensation Panel 12/07/11
David Kirby v. Memphis Jewish Nursing Home
W2010-02261-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

An employee sustained a compensable injury to his shoulder. While he was recovering from surgery, he reinjured his shoulder when his dog pulled his arm while he was holding the dog by its collar. The trial court found that the reinjury was a direct and natural result of the earlier compensable injury and that the reinjury caused an increase in impairment. The employer has appealed, contending that the trial court incorrectly applied the intervening injury rule and incorrectly adopted the evaluating physician’s impairment. We affirm as to the reinjury but conclude that the trial court erroneously based its award upon an incorrect impairment rating, and we modify the judgment accordingly.

Chester County Workers Compensation Panel 12/01/11
Judy Kilburn ex rel Estate of Charles Kilburn v. Granite State Insurance Company et al.
M2011-00011-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Robbie Beal

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 was seriously injured in the course of his employment in an automobile accident in November 2008. He suffered fractures of his neck and back and underwent a surgical fusion of his neck. Over the course of the next year, he suffered severe pain and was eventually referred to a pain management physician, who prescribed oxycodone. He filed suit against his employer for workers’ compensation benefits. He died in January of 2010 of an accidental overdose of oxycodone over 14 months after his injuries. His widow was substituted as plaintiff in his workers’ compensation suit and filed a motion to amend the complaint to allege that his death was related to his work injury and that she was entitled to death benefits. The employer opposed the motion to amend, contending the death was not compensable because it was not the “direct and natural result of a compensable injury” but rather, the result of an intervening cause, i.e., the employee’s negligence in consuming an overdose of medicine. The trial court denied the motion to amend. The parties entered into a series of stipulations concerning the remaining issues in the case, and judgment was entered. The widow has appealed, contending that the trial court erred in denying her motion to amend the complaint. We agree, reverse the judgment, and remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

Williamson County Workers Compensation Panel 11/30/11