Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 09/20/2014
Format: 09/20/2014
James E. Stem v. Thompson Services, Inc., et al
M2010-01566-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice William C. Koch, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert G. Crigler

This workers’ compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-225(3)(3) (2008) for a hearing and report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The appeal involves a dispute regarding the type and amount of temporary benefits an employee working two jobs is entitled to following an injury at one of the employee’s jobs. After sustaining a work-related injury that required the employee to discontinue one but not both of his jobs, the employee filed suit in the Circuit Court for Rutherford County. After the trial court awarded temporary total disability benefits, the employer appealed and asserted that the employee was not entitled to temporary total disability benefits because he continued to work at his second job. We conclude that the employee is entitled to temporary partial, rather than temporary total, disability benefits and remand the case to the trial court to determine the amount of these benefits.

Rutherford County Workers Compensation Panel 07/26/11
Darryl J. Mayton v. Wackenhut Services, Inc.
E2010-00907-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Frank V. Williams, 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 issue presented in this case is whether the employee’s request for a benefit review conference was filed more than one year after the employee had knowledge that his occupational disease was caused by his employment. The trial court ruled that the employee’s request was not timely and dismissed the case. After careful review, we hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s finding that Employee had knowledge that his illness was related to his employment more than one year before the filing of his request for a benefit review conference. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Roane County Workers Compensation Panel 07/18/11
Courier Printing Company et al. v. Wanda Sims, ex rel Robert Steve Bly et al.
M2010-01279-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Mark Rogers

In this Workers’ Compensation case, the trial court held that the employee had sustained a gradual injury to his lower back, and that he was permanently and totally disabled as a result of that injury. The employer has appealed, contending that the trial court erred by permitting the employee to use a physician who provided an impairment rating through the Medical Impairment Registry process as a medical expert on the issue of causation and by finding that the employee sustained a compensable injury. In the alternative, the employer contends that the trial court erred by awarding permanent total disability, and also in its alternative finding that the employee had proven three of the four elements set out in Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-242, and was thereby able to recover a permanent partial disability award in excess of six times the medical impairment. We find no error and affirm the judgment.

Rutherford County Workers Compensation Panel 07/15/11
Jacqueline Morris v. Jackson Clinic Professional Association
W2010-01475-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge W. Michael Maloan
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

In this workers’ compensation action, the employee sustained a compensable injury to her shoulder. Her initial treating physician assigned a 9% impairment to the body as a whole. After additional surgery, her subsequent treating physician assigned a 6% impairment to the body as a whole. An evaluating physician assigned a 17%  impairment. The trial court chose the evaluating physician’s impairment, and awarded the employee 25.5% permanent partial disability (“PPD”) to the body as a whole. The employer has appealed, arguing that the evaluating physician’s rating did not comply with the AMA Guides and that the award therefore is excessive. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 07/15/11
Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. et al. v. Richard Warnock et al.
E2010-01453-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jacqueline S. Bolton

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 suffered an injury which the employer denied was in the course of employment. The employee filed a request for assistance with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The Department ordered the employer to pay temporary disability benefits and medical expenses for the employee’s injury pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-238(a)(2)(3).  Subsequently the employer, its workers’ compensation carrier and the employee entered into a compromise and release agreement in Pennsylvania pursuant to which the employee was paid $130,000. The employer filed this action against the employee and the Department of Labor requesting reimbursement of payments made pursuant to the Department’s order, as permitted by section 50-6-238(b). The trial court granted the Department’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the action. We affirm the judgment.

Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 07/14/11
Jeffrey Irons v. K and K Trucking, Inc. et al.
M2010-01280-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor C.K. Smith

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 sustained an injury which resulted in a court-approved workers’ compensation settlement. His authorized physician later recommended medical treatment. The employer’s utilization review provider denied approval of the proposed treatment. The employer filed a motion for a medical examination pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-204(d)(1) which is required if reasonable. The trial court found the employer’s request to be unreasonable and denied the motion. The employer has appealed. We reverse the trial court’s order and remand for entry of an order granting the motion.

Macon County Workers Compensation Panel 07/14/11
Parris Roofing and Sheet Metal Co., Inc. et al. v. Timothy Spurling
E2010-01530-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

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 and his employer filed separate workers’compensation complaints on the same day at different times,in differentcourts,and in different counties. The employer filed its cause of action in McMinn County Chancery Court on April 29, 2010, at 3:53 p.m. The employee’s action was filed in Polk County Circuit Court on the same day, but the time of filing was not noted by the court clerk. The employee moved to dismiss the employer’s action on the basis of prior suit pending. The employee’s motion was supported by an  affidavitfrom his attorney’s assistant stating that the employee’s suit was filed before 3:03 p.m. on April 29, 2010 and therefore prior to the time the employer filed suit as designated by the court clerk in McMinn County. The trial court granted theemployee’s motion and dismissed the employer’s action. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

McMinn County Workers Compensation Panel 07/13/11
Barbara Ann Harville v. Emerson Electric Company
W2010-01011-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Tony A. Childress
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

The employee sustained a compensable injury to her arm in 2001. In 2003, she entered into a settlement with her employer that preserved her right to receive reasonable and necessary medical treatment for the injury. In April 2008, the employee’s authorized treating physician recommended a diagnostic test. The employer submitted the recommendation to its utilization review provider, which declined to approve the recommended test. The employee and her physician were notified of the denial in May 2008. In June 2009, the employee filed a petition for contempt seeking to have the trial court order the recommended test. The trial court treated the petition as a motion for medical treatment pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-204(b)(2) (2008). The trial court found the recommended test to be reasonably necessary for the treatment of the injury, ordered the employer to authorize it, and awarded the employee attorney’s fees. The employer appealed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Henry County Workers Compensation Panel 07/06/11
Jerry Lindsey v. Tim Reeves d/b/a Tim’s Tree Service
W2010-01736-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

The employee suffered a compensable spinal cord injury. He settled his workers’ compensation claim with his employer in 2007. The settlement provided for future medical treatment in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-204(a) (2008). In 2009, the employee sought authorization and payment for a hydrotherapy tub. His employer declined to authorize installation of the tub. The employee filed a motion for authorization of medical care in February 2010 and supported the motion by attaching a note from his authorized treating physician that he would “benefit” from use of the tub. The trial court granted the motion. On appeal, we reverse.

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 06/15/11
Victor Powell et al. v. Brett Marter, Individually and d/b/a Quality Floor Covering
M2010-01746-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Graham

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 filed a workers’ compensation action contending his injury while cutting trees at his employer’s home was in the usual course of his employment at his employer’s floor covering business. The trial court held that employee’s work was casual employment not in the usual course of his employer’s business as defined by TCA § 50-6-106(2) and not covered by the workers’ compensation statute. We affirm the judgment.

Marion County Workers Compensation Panel 06/07/11
Mason Fischer v. Sverdrup Technology, Inc.
M2010-01095-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz

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 filed a Worker’s Compensation action on August 22, 2003 alleging a compensable injury in the course of his employment with his employer in December 1998. The employer filed a motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 41.02. The trial court entered an order in September 2008, stating that the employer was withdrawing the motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute based upon the employee’s commitment to take a medical deposition within sixty days. A second motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute was filed and heard on March 15, 2010 because the medical deposition had not been taken. The trial court granted the motion with prejudice. The employee has appealed. We affirm the judgment.

Coffee County Workers Compensation Panel 06/07/11
Daniel Clay Lewis v. Dana Holding Corporation
W2010-018636-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Janice M. Holder
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor George R. Ellis

An employee sustained an injury to his shoulder at work. After a surgical repair, he briefly returned to work but was laid off prior to reaching maximum medical improvement. He filed a complaint in chancery court seeking workers’ compensation benefits from his employer. His treating physician assigned no impairment rating and placed no restrictions on his activities. An evaluating physician assigned 6% impairment to the body as a whole and recommended that Mr. Lewis avoid certain activities. The trial court awarded 36% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole. The employer has appealed, contending that the award is excessive. We modify the judgment to award 24% permanent partial disability to the employee. We also conclude that local Rule 17A of the Chancery Court of the 28th Judicial District of Tennessee conflicts with Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 58.

Gibson County Workers Compensation Panel 06/06/11
John Ernest Hayes v. American Zurich Insurance Company et al.
E2010-00099-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Howell N. Peoples

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 trial court found that the employee had sustained a compensable injury. In addition, it found that the employee had a meaningful return to work, and his award of permanent partial disability (“PPD”) benefits was limited to one and one-half times his anatomical impairment pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 50-6-241(d)(1). On appeal, the employee contends the trial court erred by finding that he had a meaningful return to work. The employer contends the trial court erred by admitting a discovery deposition of an expert into evidence over its objection based upon Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 32.01(3), and finding that the injury at issue was not concurrent with injuries which were the subject of a separate lawsuit. We affirm the judgment.

Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 05/25/11