Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 12/25/2014
Format: 12/25/2014
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
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
Ceildeck Corporation v. Herbert Ivey
M2011-00096-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ellen Hobbs Lyle

This case involves a race to the courthouse after a Benefit Review Conference ("BRC"). The employee, a Dickson County resident, was allegedly injured in Davidson County during the course and scope of his employment. The employee and his employer unsuccessfully attempted to settle the employee’s claim at a BRC held on October 11, 2010; an impasse was declared at 10:27:19 a.m. Employee’s complaint was filed in the Chancery Court of Dickson County at 10:27 a.m. Employer’s complaint was filed in the Chancery Court of Davidson County at 10:28 a.m. The employee filed a motion to dismiss the employer’s Davidson County complaint based on the doctrine of prior suit pending. The trial court granted the motion, and the employer appealed.We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 11/15/11
Shannon Majors v. Randstad Inhouse Services, L.P., et al
M2010-01975-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey F. Stewart

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 was operating a torque gun which jerked and twisted her right hand while at work. She contended that her injury extended into her arm. Her employer agreed the injury was compensable but argued that the injury was limited to her index finger. The trial court found the injury was to the arm and awarded 70% permanent partial disability to that member. On appeal, her employer argues that the trial court erred by apportioning the award to the arm, that the amount of the award is excessive, and that the trial court erred by awarding certain discretionary costs. We affirm the judgment.

Franklin County Workers Compensation Panel 10/19/11
Michael A. Parish v. Highland Park Baptist Church, et al.
E2010-01977-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Jerri S. Bryant
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Frank Brown

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 was injured when he was thrown from a horse. He alleged that the injury arose in the course and scope of his employment. His Employer contended that the Employee was engaged in a purely private activity; therefore, the injury was not compensable. The trial court denied the claim. On appeal, the Employee contends that the trial court erred by finding his injury was not related to his employment. We affirm the judgment.

Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 10/18/11
Sterling Edward Hubbard v. Sherman-Dixie Concrete Industries, Inc., et al
E2010-02219-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Frank Brown

Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51 and Tennessee Code Annotated Section 50-6- 225(e)(3), this appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Panel. In this instance, an employee was injured when he tripped and fell over boxes while loading a truck. The employer, who contended that the injury was an aggravation of a pre-existing condition, requested two independent medical evaluations, the second of which the employee refused to attend. The trial court denied the employer’s motion to compel the second evaluation and, ultimately, awarded workers’ compensation benefits. In this appeal, the employer contends that the trial court erred by failing to compel a second evaluation, by awarding benefits to the employee, and by failing to apportion liability to the Second Injury Fund. We affirm the judgment.

Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 10/18/11